Spousal Support

Before the Case

This section offers general information about what spousal support is and who can ask for it.

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.

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

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.

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. The amount of money to be paid is relatively easy to figure out.

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.

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:

  • Go to a law library, buy a self-help book, or look on the internet.
  • Domestic violence resources
  • Find resources for
  • Spiritual Support from a priest, rabbi, minister, or other religious leader
  • Support for children affected by divorce
  • Mexican citizens living in Northern California can get free legal help through a hot line launched by the Bay Area's Mexican Consulate: 1-800-668-1005.