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How are alimony payments determined?

La Habra, CA |
Attorney answers 5


Have a consultation with a good family law attorney. That is the best way to educate yourself.

Michael is in San Jose, California and can be reached at 408-295-4232 or at Consultation fees, rates and retainers vary based on need and ability to pay.


Do you often study up on surgery to attempt to see if you can do it yourself? Leave it in the hands of the professionals and hire an attorney. The amount and length of alimony may decide your standard of living for a long time, maybe life. Why not let a trained attorney handle it?

Legal disclaimer: In accordance with the Avvo community guidelines, this communication does not constitute "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.


There are two different types of spousal support in california, temporary and permanent or long term spousal support. For temporary spousal support, the court typically uses a computer program to calculate support. In long term or permanent spousal support, the court must look at all of the factors in family code section 4320 inlcuding standard of living and the need and ability to pay. It is importatnt that you speak to a experienced family law attorney regarding these differences and what you may pay.


Temporary spousal support payments are determined using a program such as Dissomaster. Because of the high volume of cases and the need to get them through the system, the courts use a computer program to determine a support amount on a temporary basis. Spousal support is based upon your wife’s need and your ability to pay. It is income driven, not expense driven.

Your question on a permanent basis revolves around Family Code 4320. There are a number of factors a court should consider:

(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is
sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the
marriage, taking into account all of the following:
(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market
for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported
party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop
those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to
acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
(2) The extent to which the supported party's present or future
earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were
incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote
time to domestic duties.
(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the
attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license
by the supporting party.
(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support,
taking into account the supporting party's earning capacity, earned
and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living
established during the marriage.
(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property,
of each party.
(f) The duration of the marriage.
(g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful
employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent
children in the custody of the party.
(h) The age and health of the parties.
(i) Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as
defined in Section 6211, between the parties, including, but not
limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from
domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the
supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence
against the supporting party by the supported party.
(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.
(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting
within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage
of long duration as described in Section 4336, a "reasonable period
of time" for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the
length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended
to limit the court's discretion to order support for a greater or
lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in
this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.
(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be
considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support
award in accordance with Section 4325.
(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

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You are smart to be educating yourself about the process. Read and continue to do that. Preparation for a divorce is critical. But at some point you have to consult with an experienced family law attorney. To answer your question, temporary alimony is generally determined by a computer program (generally called dissomaster or x-spouse). You input certain factors and the program tells you what temporary support should be. The program is not the be all, end all but it weight heavily in the Judge's mind. At trial, Family Code 4320 controls - no computer programs allowed. I have placed below a link to our Orange County divorce blog's alimony section that will give you some insight to most of these questions. At the end of the day though, consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer is a must because you can only learn so much without actually discussing the facts of your case and having a dialogue with one.

Anytime a question refers to a document, whether or not filed with the court, a complete answer cannot be provided until the document is reviewed. Furthermore, nothing contained in this answer should be considered legal advice. Legal advice can only be given during a formal consultation. Our law firm offers a free consultation to prospective clients who have divorce and family law questions. Contact us by telephone or email and we can give you a more detailed answer to your question.