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How Much Spousal Support Will You Have to Pay?


While the Wall Street Journal reported that many states are in the process of considering limits on spousal support laws, spousal support still stands as a method for one spouse to support another.

Unfortunately, there is no one specific answer to determine how much permanent (long- term) spousal support you will have to pay following a finalized divorce in California. This differs from temporary spousal support, which is support ordered by a judge while a case is ongoing, because a judge will usually use a formula.

The amount of permanent spousal support that the court asks you to pay will vary greatly depending on many individual facts in your case.

The court’s goal in awarding spousal support is to assist one spouse in the ability to afford their monthly living expenses after separation. Below are some factors that will influence whether permanent spousal support will be ordered at the time of Judgment and how much support will be ordered.

Marketable Skills. This refers to the supported spouse’s skills that could later result in a means to support themselves. This also takes into account whether the individual will need to pay for training to obtain skills that could result in employment and whether the individual will need to be retrained to utilize their skills.

Domestic Duties. If the supported spouse’s earning capacity was affected by long periods of unemployment due to domestic duties, such as caring for children and the home, it will be considered when awarding spousal support.

Contribution to the Attainment of an Education. If a supported spouse contributed to the payor’s ability to obtain education, training, or advancement in their career during the marriage, this will also be considered.

Supporting Spouse’s Ability to Pay. The supporting spouse’s ability to pay is based on several figures. The court determines a supporting spouse’s earning capacity by examining the spouse’s previous earnings, education, job experience, ability to earn, income through financial interests like capital gains and investments, and assets like savings.

Needs of Each Party. Need is based on the standard of living during the marriage. This refers to the lifestyle that the parties had during the marriage of their ability to financially maintain that lifestyle after separation.

Obligations and Assets. When determining spousal support, a judge will consider all of the separate debts and property that each spouse has. This includes any debts that the payor may have that would affect his or her ability to pay and any property that the supported spouse has that is considered an asset.

Length of Marriage. The length of time that a couple was married can greatly influence the amount of spousal support awarded because courts attempt to maintain the standard of living that the spouses were accustomed to during the marriage. It is assumed that the spouses will grow more accustomed to the standard of living as they are married for a longer duration.

Employment and Children’s Best Interest. If the supported spouse cannot obtain employment because they are the primary caregiver, that will be taken in to consideration when awarding spousal support.

Age and Health of Parties. If either party is in poor health or is very old, their ability to work is significantly diminished and that will affect whether the payor can pay the supporting spouse or if the supporting spouse can enter to the workforce.

Domestic Violence. Whether domestic violence occurred in a matter will affect spousal support awarded. For instance if domestic violence was perpetrated against a payor, a judge may decide to award a lower amount of spousal support.

Tax Implications. Tax implications from either paying spousal support or receiving spousal support will be weighed in awarding spousal support. This could mean tax deductions for the paying spouse or spousal support being considered taxable income for the supported spouse.

Balance of Hardships. This refers to burden placed on the paying spouse to make the spousal support payments versus the burden that will be placed on the supported spouse if they were to not receive enough support for the necessities of life. Both of these are considered and weighed when a judge awards spousal support.

Reasonable Period to Become Self-Supporting. When awarding spousal support, a judge may warn a supported spouse that they need to become self- supporting within a reasonable period of time. What is considered a reasonable period of time will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.

Criminal Conviction. Criminal conviction of an abusive spouse can affect spousal support through reduction or elimination.

Other Factors. A judge may consider other factors in regards to what is equitable and fair in determining spousal support.

As previously stated, the goal of spousal support is to restore a party’s ability to maintain a standard of living and is based upon case-by-case facts. If you have any questions about spousal support, contact the Law Office of Rebecca Medina for a compassionate and seasoned Divorce Attorney in Fresno and San Diego, CA with extensive experience in Family Law.

Rebecca MedinaAbout the Author: Rebecca Medina

Rebecca Medina is an experienced Family Law attorney, mediator and Collaborative Divorce Lawyer serving the Fresno and San Diego areas. She handles cases ranging from complex divorce matters to child custody, spousal support, prenuptial/postnuptial agreements, QDROs and uncontested divorce cases. She was rated “Clients’ Choice” by Avvo.

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