There are only two types of spousal support in California: temporary and rehabilitative.
The court provides temporary assistance during the divorce proceedings. During a divorce, a judge will consider various factors and determine whether it is appropriate for one spouse to pay child support to the other.
Often, temporary support is established based on a formula designed to maintain both parties’ standard of living while their problems are resolved. The formula may vary, but a common formula is to start with 40% of the higher earner’s monthly income, subtract 50% of the lower earner’s income, and have the higher earner pay the difference.
- A spouse makes $10,000 a month, so 40% of that is $4,000
- The other spouse only makes $2,000 per month, 50% of which is $1,000
- Therefore, the court may order the first spouse to pay $3,000 in alimony during the divorce proceedings ($4,000 – $1,000 = $3,000).
- This means that during the divorce, the lower-income spouse has $5,000 a month to support themselves and make any necessary accommodation arrangements, rather than relying on their own $2,000 alone having to leave.
However, these guidelines are not requirements, and even in counties that have adopted them, California judges are not required to use them. Similarly, temporary support usually lasts until the final divorce, but judges may choose to end it before then.
When a judge determines that support is needed beyond the duration of the divorce proceedings, it is called rehabilitating support.
In California, spousal support is called “rehabilitative” because it is intended to last only as long as it takes for the low-income spouse to gain the education and experience needed to support themselves. In practice, this can mean permanent support, but it very rarely does.
Unlike temporary support, there is no formula or strict guidance as to whether or how much support a spouse will receive. The judges will consider several factors in deciding these matters.
If alimony is ordered, the judge has indefinite jurisdiction over spousal maintenance. During this time, the judge can monitor the recipient spouse’s progress towards self-sufficiency and enforce a gradation of payments over time. The judge may also hear requests to change or terminate support from both ex-spouses.