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Spousal Support

Before the Case

When a couple separates or divorces, the court can order that one spouse or partner pay the other monthly support. This is called spousal support. Spousal or partner support makes sure that each former spouse or partner has a “just and reasonable” amount of money to live on for a period of time.

There are two types of spousal support:

  • Temporary support: This is support while the divorce or separation is ongoing. This can be requested as soon as a family law case is filed. Once a divorce is final, this support stops.
  • Long-term support: This type of support lasts after a divorce is final. It can last for a short time or for many years if the parties had a long marriage.

The Court does not automatically order either kind of support. One of the parties must request it. It can be difficult to figure out how much and for how long support must be paid. There are also tax issues to consider. Your Court's Family Law Facilitator can help you understand spousal support and how it is calculated.

In California, court-ordered support may be requested by either of the former spouses of a marriage, or partners of a registered domestic partnership. It may be requested as part of a divorce, legal separation, or annulment, or in a domestic violence prevention case.

Before a spousal or partner support request can be made, the person asking for payment needs to know where the person being asked to pay can be found so that court papers can be properly served on him or her. Learn what to do if the residence of one of the former spouses or partners is unknown.

NOTE: Generally, people who were not ever married or in a registered domestic partnership cannot ask the court to order spousal or partner support.

In California, spousal or partner support makes sure that each former spouse or partner has a “just and reasonable” amount of money to live on for a period of time. This will be based on many different factors, including the standard of living during the marriage or domestic partnership.

Often, the former spouses or partners can agree on an amount of money for support that they both think is fair. However, if they cannot agree, the court may be requested to order one former spouse or partner to pay the other an amount of money that the court determines is just and reasonable for a period of time.

Temporary support can be requested as soon as the case is started. Many counties have formulas for calculating the amount of a temporary spousal or partner support order. Check your court's local rules for the temporary support guideline in the court where you live.

Long-term support may be less easy to figure out. The court may consider many factors when deciding how much money is “just and reasonable” for support. Some of these considerations are:

  • the standard of living during the marriage or domestic partnership.
  • the age and health of both people.
  • how long they were married.
  • how much each earns or could earn on their own.
  • the expenses of each.
  • the number of children at home.
  • how they handled their finances when they were together.

BEFORE A SPOUSAL OR PARTNER SUPPORT CASE CAN BE STARTED, the person asking for payment needs to know where the person being asked to pay support can be found.

REMEMBER: There is a Family Law Facilitator in each county who can help you.

Handling a court case can be difficult and confusing. For this reason, many people consider getting expert help.

For free and low-cost legal help in California:

Go to the California Courts for help from:

  • Court-based self-help services
  • Legal aid agencies and other non-profit groups
  • Government agencies
  • Lawyer-referral services and bar associations
  • Dispute resolution programs

People often need more than just legal help during a spousal support case. They may have a hard time dealing with their emotions. They may also be worried about where they will live, how they will find work, or pay for child care. For help with these concerns: