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The Four Major Decisions in a Divorce, Part 2: Spousal Support

In all divorces, there are certain decisions you must make. If there are children involved, you have two additional concerns you must address. In this series of articles, we will explore each of these decisions in detail.

A marriage is about more than just two peoples’ feelings for one another. It is a practical partnership where people share their lives on many levels.

Most often, this includes sharing finances. Even if both spouses work, one typically makes more money than the other, creating a financial dependency within the relationship.

Spousal support exists for this reason. If a marriage abruptly ends, one partner could be left in a financial tailspin. They have come to expect a certain degree of security from their marriage which no longer exists.

At its best, spousal support keeps someone afloat, helping them gain financial independence. Here is a broad overview of how spousal support works.

How Is Spousal Support Calculated?

Each state uses its own methods for awarding spousal support in a divorce. Some have direct, algebraic formulas. Others get a general sense of the marriage and try to make a fair, unbiased decision from there.

California has no direct spousal support equation. Instead, it looks at several factors within the marriage.

Spousal support considerations include:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • Each spouse’s current income.
  • The financial needs of each spouse.
  • Each spouse’s ability to earn income. This consideration includes spouses’ ages, health, work history, education, etc.
  • Whether there was abuse within the marriage. If a court believes someone was mistreated, it can use spousal support to compensate someone for their suffering.


Let’s say a couple has been married for 15 years, and they are ready to divorce. One spouse has disabilities and cannot work. During the marriage, the other supported this spouse. After the divorce, the disabled party is unlikely to secure work. Therefore, one spouse may be ordered to make long-term or permanent spousal support payments to the disabled spouse.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, imagine a marriage of two healthy people in their 20s. The marriage lasted 3 years, and both spouses have master’s degrees in high-demand fields. In a situation like this, the court may order low payments that last only a couple of years. It could also decide that support is not necessary.

What Are Your Options?

You do not have to rely on the state to make your divorce decisions. All couples have the right to make whatever agreements they choose, submit those agreements to the court, and move on. If you can work out a fair deal amongst yourselves, make sure to run it by an attorney when you’re done. They can help you correct any mistakes or guide you in any areas you missed.

Most couples will need some help negotiating, which is why we recommend mediation. Your mediator can guide the conversation, working to keep both spouses satisfied whenever possible.

Creating a plan together gives you power over your divorce, and it gives you one last project to work on with your spouse. In the best-case scenario, you could even part ways as friends.

Next month, we will discuss child custody and visitation.

If you are concerned about spousal support in your divorce, reach out to our firm for help. You can call us today at (951) 779-1610 or schedule time with us online.