Unlike child support, there is no statutory formula for calculating spousal support. When a judge is issuing a final order for spousal support, under California Family Code, Section 4320, he or she may take the following factors into account.
One factor is the earning capacity of each spouse and whether it is enough to keep up the standard of living the couple enjoyed while married. When determining earning capacity, the judge will consider the marketable skills of the spouse seeking support and the applicable job market wherein the spouse can utilize these skills. The court will also take into account the time and cost it will take for a spouse seeking support to obtain these skills.
If the spouse seeking support stayed out of the job market while married to care for the family, the extent to which this affects that spouse’s earning capacity will be considered. Another factor is the extent to which the spouse seeking support contributed to the education and career of the other spouse. If the spouse seeking support has custody of a child of the marriage, that spouse’s ability to be gainfully employed without interfering with the needs of the child will be taken into account.
The court may also consider the extent to which the spouse paying support has the financial resources to do so. Each spouse’s needs based on the standard of living they enjoyed while married may be considered, as may the length of the marriage. Each spouse’s assets, including separate assets, may be considered. Other factors include each party’s age and health.
Whether domestic violence is an issue may be considered. Another factor is the tax consequences each spouse will face. The court will also factor in the hardships each spouse will face. It is expected that within a reasonable amount of time, the spouse receiving support will be able to become financially self-sufficient. In general, “reasonable” means 50 percent of the length of the marriage, except when the marriage lasted 10 years or more.
This list is not all-exhaustive, as a judge can consider other just and equitable factors. But as this shows, determining how much to award in spousal support is a nuanced affair. In the end, though, what is ultimately important is that the final divorce decree, including spousal support, is fair and appropriate to all involved.