Spousal support is typically ordered where one spouse or domestic partner earns more than the other spouse or domestic partner or when one spouse has not worked in several years, or does not work at the time of the separation.
There are two types of spousal support: Temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support.
Temporary spousal support is premised on the idea that the standard of living which the parties enjoyed during the marriage should be maintained during the dissolution process. Maintaining the marital standard of living when there are two households to support is rarely achieved. Nonetheless, courts will attempt to do so.
The difference between the amounts ordered for temporary spousal support and permanent spousal support can be significant. When temporary support is ordered California Family Law Courts typically use a formula or adopt the California Support Guidelines. The spouse or domestic partner who will be ordered to pay temporary spousal support can attempt to convince a court (or the lawyer for supported spouse) not to use the guideline or formulas.
If temporary support is ordered and the marriage is more than a short term marriage (typically defined as in excess of 10 years), it is imperative to move your case forward to get a trial date, because that is where permanent spousal support is ordered. Permanent spousal support has a different purpose: to assist the supported spouse or domestic partner to become self supporting.
The court analyzes many various factors when deciding how much permanent spousal support should be ordered and for how long. Those factors are enumerated in California Family Code Section 4320.
Under California law, the supported spouse has an obligation to become “self supporting”. What does that mean? It means that if one spouse is receiving permanent spousal support, then that spouse has an obligation to use that support to help him or herself to become trained for employment or to seek employment. If the supported spouse does not attempt to become self supporting or engage in good faith efforts to become self supporting, a court may order that the spousal support be modified or even possibly terminated.