Southern California Family Attorney
Back to Top
How Do the Courts Determine How Much Spousal Support is to Be Paid?

How Do the Courts Determine How Much Spousal Support is to Be Paid?

Marriage and Domesticity

California makes a distinction between married couples and domestic partners. When a couple divorces and one spouse is ordered to provide financial benefits, it’s called “spousal support,” while couples seeking to end their domestic partnerships will need to determine “partner support.”

What you might not know is that each California county’s laws are different than the others. Typically, these different rules apply for temporary financial support until the state laws and courts can make a final determination, along with the other details in a case that are based on California law.

One of the primary reasons for the differences from one county to the next has to do with the varied demographics throughout California. The types of jobs, the median income, etc. play a role in how spousal support is calculated.  For information on Oceanside’s rules of court, visit the San Diego County page here.

By the Numbers: How the Courts Make the Determination

As the judge contemplates the final spousal or partner support order, he or she is bound by California’s Family Code section 4320.

A few of those factors include the length of the marriage or partnership, the standard of living, earnings and earning capacity of both spouses or partners, the employment status, whether one spouse or partner has returned to school, if there was domestic violence in the relationship, the age, and health of both parties and finally, any children who are part of the equation.

Once all of these factors – and potentially many more – are weighed, the judge will then use that information to determine the amount of support to be paid each month.

For those who do not wish a judge to determine their fate, there are other options. If a couple can come to an agreement without the court’s intervention, it may result in a better solution for the parties involved. This works best when the couple has found a way to get past their pain and resentment, at least long enough to find common ground with the finances and spousal support issues.

Many couples work with mediators in an effort of settling the amount of spousal support that will be paid to one spouse or partner. It is less expensive, more private and most agree it is less stressful, but this does not mean that the legalities are bypassed.

Once you have worked out an agreement that is fair to both parties, it must be filed as part of the divorce case. Further, just because the couple found the right solution versus a judge does not mean it is less legally binding. It most definitely is.

Keep in mind that the duration of any kind of alimony or spousal support will vary greatly. For marriages of ten years or less, alimony payments are typically ordered for five years (or half the length of the marriage).

In longer marriages that end up in divorce, there are other factors that are calculated. A qualified spousal support attorney can help a client better understand what to expect since the courts make the determinations on a case-by-case level.