Frequently Asked Questions about Spousal Support in California Part 1

In California, spousal support is based on the need of one party to receive it, and the ability of the other party to pay it.  Spousal support will not be based on the wrongdoings of one spouse against the other – as a punishment for the wrongdoer.

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding what spousal support, when it will be ordered, for how much, and for how long.  Next week, will provide more frequently asked questions and responses.

What does the term “spousal support” mean in California?

When martial couples or legal domestic partners separate or divorce, at the request of one spouse/partner the court may order the other spouse/partner to pay a certain amount of money to the requestor each month to help the requestor financially.

Are both spouses/domestic partners entitled to spousal support?

Technically, a spouse/partner is entitled to spousal support if that person is incapable of providing for themselves in the manner they were accustomed during their marriage/partnership, and the other spouse/partner has the ability to pay for the support.

How can I get spousal support?

Before a court will award anyone spousal support, there must be a court case.  Either spouse/partner can file for dissolution of marriage/domestic partnership, and request support from the original filing documents.  Once the case is filed and the other side has responded, the court may make an order for temporary support.  Once the case has concluded, the court may make an order for spousal support for certain period of time, or the life of one of the spouses/domestic partners, depending on the circumstances.

How much spousal support can I get?

During the dissolution process the amount of support a court may award is usually based on local jurisdictions and their calculation formulas.  A copy of the court’s local rules should explain how much is awarded – or denied.  For a permanent support award, the court will consider the factors in Family Code Section 4320.   California Family Code section 4320.

What happens if I’m supposed to pay spousal support and I fall behind on my payments?

When a court awards spousal support, it becomes a court order and failing behind on payments or failing to pay at all can place the spouse ordered to pay in contempt of court.  You will have to pay a 10 percent yearly interest fee on all late payments, you can get a wage assignment (wages from your paycheck will be deducted), or pay arrearages in installments.

How do I get my spousal support (modified) or ended?

In most cases, either spouse can go back into court and request a modification if is a significant reason for the change, such as the supported spouse is now earning more money, or the spouse paying the support no longer has the income to do so.  Otherwise, the support order will end when the court documents (usually the final dissolution forms) says the support ends.

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