Spousal Support is not the same for every case and will vary depending on determining factors.
Spousal support orders made prior to trial are referred to as “temporary support” or “pendente lite” (Latin: during litigation) support. The Court calculates this support using one of two computer programs; Dissomaster or X-Spouse. There are small differences between the two programs, but the results are basically the same.
Support is not calculated based on expenses, but on the gross income of the parties. Many people are apprehensive when they see their gross income being used, but the program takes into account the parties’ tax bracket and includes net available income into the calculation.
If there is child support, it is usually calculated at the same time as temporary spousal support. The amount of child support, visitation time share, and other factors entered into the computer will affect the amount of spousal support.
The Court has discretion to deviate from the spousal support guideline formula, but generally speaking the Court will follow the guideline.
Permanent spousal support refers to support orders made at the time of trial. It is somewhat of a misnomer as this does not necessarily mean “forever.” First, we will address how it is calculated and then how long its lasts.
At the time of trial, the Court will use Family Code Section 4320 (http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=fam&group=04001-05000&file=4320-4326) to determine the amount of permanent spousal support. It will not use Dissomaster or X-Spouse like it did in ordering temporary support. Unlike temporary support, the Court will not only look at your income. The Court takes a global view to get a complete picture of the parties’ lives in ordering permanent spousal support. It will also look at expenses, years of marriage, health, assets, marital standard of living, whether or not someone had to stay home and care for the children, and other factors.
Long Term vs. Short Term Marriage
The length of time that support continues depends on the length of your marriage. A long term marriage is one that is 10 years or more. In these cases support will continue until the death of either party, remarriage of the receiving spouse, or of further order of the Court. A short term marriage is less than 10 years. In these cases support continues for 1⁄2 the length of the marriage.
There is no bright line as to what constitutes a long term or short marriage. Courts have discretion to consider what is or is not a long term marriage. For example, it is possible for a Court to determine a marriage of 9 years and 11 months is a long term marriage or a 12 year marriage that had considerable periods of separation and then reconciliation between the parties to be a short term marriage.
In long term marriage situations the Court may issue a “Gavron Warning” which in essence means that even though support will continue indefinitely, the supported spouse still has a duty to seek to become self-supporting in a reasonable period of time and failure to do so may result in future orders by the Court to reduce or terminate spousal support. The receiving spouse’s age, the numbers and ages of children along with the Family Code section 4320 factors will play a significant role in the Court’s determination of whether or not to issue a Gavron warning.