When a person files for a Dissolution of Marriage, also known as a Divorce, or for a Legal Separation, either spouse can request Spousal Support, also referred to as Alimony in other states. There are two types of spousal support: Temporary and Permanent. Temporary Spousal Support can be paid until there is a Final Order (e.g. a Judgment of Dissolution, Judgment of Legal Separation, etc.) that specifically addresses Permanent Spousal Support. Temporary Spousal Support is modifiable (changeable) if the parties’ circumstances change (e.g. a spouse’s income increases or decreases, etc.) Permanent Spousal Support refers to Spousal Support paid as described in a Final Order or Judgment. Permanent Spousal Support is determined based upon a thorough consideration of factors enumerated in Family Code section 4320. The purpose of Permanent Spousal Support, if appropriate, is to provide financial assistance to one spouse once the community property estate has been divided. The purpose of Temporary Spousal Support is to maintain the “status quo” of the parties until a final determination of support, based upon Family Code section 4320 can be ascertained. Family Law Judicial Officers use Temporary Spousal Support as a method to allocate family income in an equitable manner.
Temporary Spousal Support may be any amount necessary for the support of the lower wage earner, given the relative financial circumstances of the parties. If available, Family Law Courts utilize a county-specific guideline formula to determine Temporary Spousal Support based upon the incomes and itemized deductions of the parties. The Judicial officers and attorneys use court-approved programs to calculate Temporary Spousal Support, which implements the applicable county-specific guideline formula. There are various factors relevant to a Temporary Spousal Support calculation; the biggest determining factor, aside from the relative incomes and itemized deductions of the parties, is child support, if applicable. Spousal Support takes a backseat to child support in that the majority of available family funds will be allocated towards child support and the remainder allocated towards spousal support. Both types of support (child and spousal) are important, however, the wealth of law on this issue indicates a slightly higher emphasis on the importance of child support over spousal support. Hence, spousal support is calculated in conjunction with and second to child support.
If there is no child support obligation in a Dissolution or Legal Separation Matter, Alameda County’s guideline spousal support formula is fairly straightforward. However, a child support obligation complicates the formula used to arrive at a guideline Temporary Spousal Support figure. In most cases, the court-approved programs are capable of calculating guideline child and/or spousal support figures.
Ultimately, Family Law Judicial Officers have wide discretion (power) to fashion a spousal support order that is appropriate to the circumstances of a particular family. As circumstances differ between families, it is important to be apprised of your rights and the potential pitfalls of a guideline temporary spousal support calculation.
If you would like more information on the issue of Temporary Spousal Support, and how it may be calculated in your particular matter, please contact FAMILY LAW GROUP, LLP at (925) 447-3322 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.