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Spousal support can be a very contested issue in the divorce process. Spousal support is not ordered in every case. Whether you are trying to obtain spousal support or avoid it, you need an experienced family law attorney who can argue your case. During the divorce or separation process, the parties can come to an agreement to support in a specific amount and/or duration. However, if they are unable to come to an agreement, a judge can order one spouse to pay the other support.

An order to pay such support can be ordered in these cases:

  • Divorce, legal separation, or annulment

  • Cases of domestic violence involving restraining orders

Either party may request a “temporary spousal support order” while the case is ongoing. Support may also be ordered as part of a final divorce or separation judgment. If there is support ordered in the final judgment, it is called “permanent” or “long term” spousal support.

When there is a final order for spousal support by the court orders, the judge will consider the factors spelled out in California Family Code section 4320, including, but not limited to: 

  • How long the marriage or domestic partnership lasted;

  • What each party needs based on their standard of living during the marriage;

  • What each person earns, or can pay, to maintain that standard of living;

  • Whether working would make it too difficult to care for young children;

  • The age and health of both parties;

  • Debts and property of each spouse;

  • Whether one party helped the other obtain an education, training, career or professional license;

  • Whether domestic violence involving the parties occurred;

  • Whether a career was impacted by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home;

  • The impact of taxes on spousal support; and

  • Any other equitable factors that may apply.

The spousal or partner support order becomes part of the final divorce or legal separation judgment. However, that is not always the end of the story. Even though there is a final judgment, either party may request a change to the amount support if there is a extreme “change in circumstances”. 

Spousal and domestic partner support usually stops if:

  • A court order or judgment terminates it;

  • One of the parties dies; or

  • The person receiving the support remarries.