When there is a significant difference between your income and your spouse’s earnings, a judge may order you to pay spousal support. Also known as alimony, the purpose is to help your partner with daily living expenses until he or she becomes financially independent.
The Judicial Council of California states that a court can only award spousal support as part of a court proceeding such as a legal separation, divorce or domestic violence restraining order. The duration of the payments depends primarily on the type of support required.
Temporary spousal support
A judge may award temporary support to your spouse for the duration of the divorce process. It begins with the initial filing and ends with the finalization of your dissolution.
The court will typically use a formula to determine the amount of temporary support payments. The calculation evaluates elements such as current incomes, living costs and time off required for child care and then comes up with a payment that will, more or less, equalize the financial abilities of you and your spouse. If either your or your soon-to-be-ex believes that the estimated support amount is unsustainable, you may petition the court for a correction.
Permanent spousal support
Permanent spousal support, if applicable, takes effect after the final divorce judgment and could last for a set number of years or have no end date. Unlike the mathematical nature of the temporary support calculation, a permanent support determination is much more arbitrary and takes greater factors into account.
If you filed for divorce before the 10-year mark, the judge generally orders support for half the duration of your marriage. Other aspects considered may include age, health and your ability to pay. You generally do not have to continue paying support after the ordered time period ends or after your ex remarries.