What factors are considered when awarding spousal support?

Spousal support, also referred to as alimony, is a major issue that must be resolved in a high asset divorce. This is especially true if one spouse earned significantly more than the other during the marriage or if one spouse stayed out of the workforce entirely while married. However, there is no set formula for determining spousal support in California. Instead, courts will consider a variety of factors when awarding spousal support.

Earning capacity

One factor is whether each spouse can earn enough to keep a standard of living that is roughly the same as that they enjoyed while married. Courts will consider each spouse’s marketable skills, the job market and how much time and money the receiving spouse will need to obtain appropriate employment. The extent to which earning capacity is affect by the gap in the receiving spouse’s work history if that spouse stayed out of the workforce to care for the family may also be considered.

How long the marriage lasted

Spousal support may be temporary. How long the marriage lasted will be considered when awarding spousal support. Courts aim to limit spousal support to the reasonable amount of time that it will take the receiving spouse to support themselves. This may amount to one-half the length of time the couple was married, but judges have the ultimate discretion to make a different situation based on each couple’s unique circumstances. They may even award permanent alimony if the couple was in a “long-term” marriage and the situation warrants it.

Domestic violence

If domestic violence is an issue in the divorce, the court must take this into account when awarding spousal support. If the paying spouse is the one who committed the abuse, the receiving spouse’s emotional distress due to the violence suffered may be considered. Alternatively, if the receiving spouse was the one who committed the abuse this will also be considered. In fact, there is a rebuttable presumption that a spouse who commits acts of domestic violence should not receive spousal support.

Other factors may be considered

This list of factors is not all-exhaustive; there are other factors a California court may consider when awarding spousal support. There is no clear-cut answer on who should receive spousal support, how long the support should last and how much should be awarded. Ultimately, what is important is the receiving spouse’s need for support and the other spouse’s ability to pay support.