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Spousal support basics in California

Spousal, or partner, support is a payment from one former spouse to the other typically following a divorce. This type of support is referred to as spousal support when a married couple divorces and partner support when two domestic partners in California divorce. To help avoid disputes concerning spousal support and partner support, it is helpful for divorcing spouses and partners to understand how it is determined.

When the court considers spousal support, it will look to the earning capacity of both spouses or partners and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. When considering what each spouse can earn to help maintain the couple's standard of living as close as possible following the divorce, the court will consider the marketable skills of the spouse or partner who will be receiving support; the job market for those skills; the amount of time and expense the spouse receiving support will incur for education or training that will allow them to develop more marketable skills and obtain a job; and the extent to which the recipient spouse's earning capacity was impacted by unemployment during the marriage while the spouse or partner took care of the home.

Spousal or partner support can also be temporary or permanent and the duration of the support that is ordered is largely dependent on the length of the marriage or partnership. The purpose of spousal or partner support is to help a non-wage earning spouse, or lower wage-earning spouse, become self- sufficient following the divorce. Because of the nature of spousal support, it can be a contentious issue during a divorce.

Divorcing couples are permitted to reach agreements concerning divorce-related issues such as spousal support themselves, however, if they are unable to agree, the family law court provides resources to determine spousal support and other concerns. It is helpful for divorcing spouses and partners to be familiar with the factors considered when spousal support is awarded.

Source: California Courts, "Spousal/Partner Support," Accessed Nov. 8, 2017

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