At the initial stage of the divorce, legal separation or nullity of marriage action, the lower earning spouse may ask the court to order the other spouse to pay him or her spousal support on a temporary basis while the action is pending. The purpose of this temporary support is to maintain the living standard of the parties pending a final determination of the action.
California has a complicated formula for calculating temporary spousal support. The court relies on software programs, the most common of which is known as “Dissomaster,” to perform the calculations. We would be pleased to demonstrate the Dissomaster program to you and calculate temporary spousal support under your circumstances during your initial, free consultation.
While there is usually not grounds to cause the court to deviate from the temporary spousal support determined by the software, there is very often grounds to dispute the figures that relied upon to calculate Guideline Support. For example, if one spouse is not employed, or is not fully employed, the other party may be able to prevail upon the court to “impute” income that party. That is, the court may calculate spousal support based on a party’s earning capacity rather than his or her actual earnings. The court is not required to accept the actual income earned by a party.
In a final judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, the court may order a party to pay for the support of the other party an amount, for a period of time, that the court determines is just and reasonable, based on the standard of living established during the marriage. This type of support is referred to as “permanent” support, although it is not typically permanent. In ordering permanent spousal support, the court must consider a variety of factors, such as the duration of the parties’ marriage, the education, health, income and earning capacity of the parties, and any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.
The courts have broad discretion to modify or terminate a temporary or permanent spousal support order. However, the party seeking a modification or termination must show that a change of circumstances has occurred since the spousal support order was made, i.e., the support recipient’s income has increased or the payer spouse’s income has decreased.