In determining permanent spousal support orders, the California Family
Code makes quite clear that specific circumstances MUST be considered.
Specifically, Section 4320 states:
"In ordering spousal support under this part, the court shall consider
all of the following circumstances:
(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party insufficient
to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking
into account all of the following:
(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those
skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire
the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the
possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable
skills or employment.
(2) The extent to which the supported party's present or future earning
capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during
the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.
(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment
of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking
into account the supporting party's earning capacity, earned and unearned
income, assets, and standard of living.
(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established
during the marriage.
(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
(f) The duration of the marriage.
(g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment
without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in
the custody of the party.
(h) The age and health of the parties.
(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined
in Section 6211, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against
either party's child, including, but not limited to, consideration
of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against
the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any
history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.
(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.
(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a
reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration
as described in Section 4336, a "reasonable period of time"
for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of
the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the
court's discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length
of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section
4336, and the circumstances of the parties.
(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in
making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance
with Section 4324.5 or 4325.
(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable."
Please note the laws use of the words
all in the first portion of the code section. No court has any “wiggle
room” when determining permanent spousal support. It must consider
all portions of Section 4320. However, also note that in Section 4320
(l), the court does not have to limit the amount of support to one-half
the length of the marriage, as long as it considers
all the circumstances in the section when making its determination.
The goal of spousal support is to provide financial assistance for the
supported spouse to become self-supporting.