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Permanent vs. Temporary Spousal Support

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Spousal support, also known as alimony, is an important court order requiring one spouse to make payments to the other after divorce, but sometimes during the process as well. The purpose of spousal support is twofold: to ensure the spouse in the weaker financial position has sufficient income to afford basic needs and can maintain a lifestyle consistent with the kind they established during their marriage.

There are two types of spousal support, temporary and permanent, but they probably aren’t what you might assume they are. You’ve probably heard before that some spousal support orders only last for a certain number of months or years. It would be reasonable to assume this is what temporary spousal support is, but it’s actually not.

Let’s dive into this topic for a closer look.

What Is Temporary Spousal Support?

Temporary spousal support is the type of support someone can receive while their divorce is ongoing. Divorces can take several months, a year, or even longer to settle. Because of this, a judge may order temporary spousal support to ensure a financially disadvantaged spouse has the means to maintain their status quo for as long as it takes their divorce to settle.

Each county in California can have its own method for calculating temporary spousal support, which is usually a simple formula. Some counties, including Los Angeles County, use a standard called the Santa Clara Guideline to calculate spousal support.

The Santa Clara Guideline:

Temporary spousal support can be up to 40% of the payer’s net monthly income, reduced by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income.

Regardless of what either party thinks of the temporary spousal support order, it will expire when a judge finalizes the divorce. That said, there’s no guarantee it will radically differ from the permanent court order.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support can last indefinitely, but that’s not always the case. Nevertheless, permanent spousal support is the court order that goes into effect after the divorce concludes. These court orders can take a lot of time and consideration to develop than temporary spousal support orders do. There are typically many more factors at play, and a lot of precise negotiation and litigation can occur before arriving at a spousal support agreement.

California’s 10-Year ‘Rule’

In situations where spousal support ends after a specified time, the marriage between two people probably lasted 10 or fewer years. California considers these marriages to be short-term marriages, and spousal support is usually ordered for a duration half that of the marriage. That said, a judge can order spousal support for longer if they deem it appropriate to do so.

Despite the fact that this spousal support can end, it’s still considered “permanent spousal support” because it becomes relevant after the divorce settles.

Indefinite Spousal Support

Spousal support that can truly be permanent typically occurs when ex-spouses were in a long-term marriage lasting more than 10 years. The reason for indefinite support usually boils down to the notion that the receiving party may have sacrificed education and/or career opportunities to manage domestic duties, such as raising children. Because this person became accustomed to a certain lifestyle under these circumstances, spousal support may never end.

Reasons Why Permanent Spousal Support Can End

There are, of course, other reasons why permanent spousal support can end. Most notably, it automatically terminates when the person receiving it remarries or dies. The spouse paying support can petition to terminate it if they learn their ex is living (cohabiting) with someone else who financially supports them.

Paying spouses can also petition to modify spousal support when the person receiving it finds a new job or receives an education. Situations like these may not lead to outright termination of spousal support, but they can result in a reduction in the amount of support owed each month.

Need Legal Help with Spousal Support?

If you need legal assistance with a spousal support issue, you can reach out to our experienced and talented team of attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLP. We have the knowledge, skill, and resources necessary to address any concern you may have about spousal support, divorce, or another family law matter.

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, reach out to us to take advantage of a free initial consultation.

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