Temporary vs Permanent Spousal Support California

Temporary vs Permanent Spousal Support California

California has a slightly unique way of doing things...

October 7, 2021

California spousal support is not as cut and dry as you might think. As the gig economy surges and fiscal ups and downs become more fluid, it can be hard to nail down just how realistic spousal support is in your case. So let’s work through the differences between temporary vs permanent spousal support California. And by the way, spousal support is synonymous with alimony but in California law the term used is spousal support. Alimony is viewed as outdated though the term does still show up in the California tax code. 

Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support, if ordered, is always ordered during a case. If it is ordered at the end of a case, it would be considered “permanent spousal support” even if there is an end date included. The idea behind temporary spousal support is to maintain the status quo during the dissolution of the marriage. While you are navigating through the divorce process and negotiating child support, etc. And there are general guidelines that your lawyer will be privy to so you should have a general idea of the amount of temporary spousal support once your lawyer has a chance to review your case. 

Now, temporary spousal support doesn’t occur in every case. The judge holds a lot of discretion in this regard. There are many times a judge will order temporary Spousal Support just to cover legal fees, and other times no spousal support is awarded. 

Temporary support can be awarded during an annulment which is interesting because permanent support cannot be awarded after an annulment. Again, a judge has a lot more discretion for temporary support and they can utilize a lot more tools to do the calculation. However, at its core the only requirement is a need on one side and the ability to pay on the other. Spousal support (temporary or permanent) is no longer dictated by gender roles. Rather, it is dictated by the breadwinner. 

Permanent Spousal Support

As noted above, permanent spousal support is awarded at the end of a case. It’s actually part of the judgement. It does not mean the support lasts forever, in fact that is very rarely the case. Usually truly permanent spousal support (where there is no end date) is awarded in cases where the marriage lasted more than 10 years. For shorter marriages, if awarded, permanent spousal support typically lasts for half the length of the marriage. But again, this is not a hard and fast rule. The purpose of permanent spousal support is to provide a safety net for the spouse until they are able to provide for themselves. 

Unique Characteristics of California Spousal Support

There are many factors in determining permanent spousal support but one of the most unique to California is that any time spent in a holding pattern for your partner’s benefit can be part of the considerations. For example, if you put aside grad school to support your spouse in their career or further their education. Within the marriage you made an agreement that delayed your earning potential. As a spouse you would have received a benefit for that agreement. Once divorced, you can still receive some benefits through spousal support. 

In any case with documented domestic violence, it is exceedingly rare for a California judge to award spousal support to an abuser. The California Superior Court has made it very clear that the law is not in the business of forcing an abuse victim to pay their abuser. 

How are Calculations Calculated? 

Temporary spousal support California uses a guideline. And while there are numerous calculators available on the market and online for permanent spousal support, a judge is not allowed to use any sort of calculator when making permanent spousal support decisions. The reason for this is if the judge is found to have used some sort of calculator, his ruling will likely be reversed. And no judge likes to have their rulings reversed. So as you are discussing your case with your lawyer, be sure to talk about the smart way to ask for spousal support. 

At the end of the day, this type of support is not mutually exclusive. Whether you are pursuing temporary vs. permanent spousal support in California, it doesn’t mean you can’t pursue the other. In fact, it’s common that both types of support are either awarded or denied. That’s why it is so important for you to talk to an expert in spousal support. Call our office right now to discuss your options! 

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