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What do courts consider when calculating spousal support?

One of the most highly contested issues in a divorce is spousal support, or the amount one spouse has to pay the other spouse each month, post-split. In many cases, lesser-earning spouses and spouses who did not work outside of the home during the marriage are entitled to spousal support or alimony. Spousal support helps them maintain the standard of living they grew accustomed to while they were married.

California divorce courts will have to determine how much spousal support to award by evaluating numerous factors. The judge will often look at the earning capacity of each spouse, as well as the length of the marriage and standard of living during the marriage. Generally, spousal support is awarded for a reasonable period of time, which could be half the length of the marriage. If a couple has been married for a long time, typically 10 years or more, the judge may decide not to set an end date to the support. But, the judge will make their decision on a case by case basis.

Often, the spouse that stays at home to raise their family and take care of the household may have difficulty returning to the workforce after so many years. The court will take this into consideration and determine how much time and money is required for that spouse to acquire the marketable skills needed to find employment.

Courts will also consider if there is a history of domestic violence between the divorcing couple. If the spouse that would be receiving the support was abused by the payer-spouse, the judge may factor in the emotional distress and suffering experienced by the spouse receiving the support when calculating alimony owed.

Once the spousal support order has been finalized by the judge, ex-spouses are legally obligated to follow the terms of the order. If one would like to modify an existing order, an experienced family law attorney can walk them through the process.

Source:, “Spousal/Partner Support,” accessed on March 20, 2018

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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law
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Redwood City, CA 94063

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