California Spousal Support Calculations
First off, courts regularly order pendent lite (litigation pending) spousal support at an Order to Show Cause hearing if there is a disparity of earnings between the spouses. By filing a spousal support Order to Show Cause packet (forms FL-300, FL-310, and FL-157) along with an Income and Expense Declaration (form FL-150), a hearing will be set and the court should order temporary spousal support relying heavily on paystubs, profit and loss statements, and tax returns. With the authority of Family Code § 3600 and aiming to maintain the marital living conditions, or status quo, temporary spousal support will likely be determined by running a spousal support software program such as DissoMaster, Xspouse, or CalSupport. Considering gross income and tax implications, the computer calculation in Orange County will follow the Santa Clara Guidelines of 40% of the spousal support provider’s net monthly income reduced by 50% of the spousal support receiver’s net monthly income. Because temporary spousal support is aimed at allocating the family income to maintain the parties’ pre-separation condition, the court should not consider the earning capacity of a nonworking spouse but take unemployed or underemployed spouses as there are. Along with considering these factors, the court will also adversely consider a spousal support request of an abusive spouse if there is a domestic violence conviction within the past five years.
Generally, temporary spousal support will be modified at trial or when a Judgment is signed – and health insurance coverage through the other spouse’s policy will be lost then too because single status will be restored. At that time, long term (often mis-referred to as permanent) spousal support will be considered through the fourteen factors set forth in Family Code § 4320 not to maintain the status quo but to provide financial assistance based on the marital standard of living. At this point, earning capacity is considered by the court and a vocational exam to assess the supported party’s marketable skills and opportunities might be pursued. Long term spousal support’s duration is anchored to the duration of the marriage where long term marriages of ten years or more regularly give rise to indefinite retention of jurisdiction (with modification usually coming with remarriage, cohabitation, and retirement), and while shorter term marriages are often followed by spousal support for only half the length of the marriage pursuant to Family Code § 4336. While the goal is self-support, some circumstances prohibit that goal being reached and a displaced homemaker from a lengthy marriage may not find many employment opportunities so spousal support should run for an extended duration. The court and also the parties have many options in arriving at a just long term spousal support order, and the particular factors in each case need to be deliberately considered.