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The Fifteen Factors That Determine California Spousal Support

In many California marriages, one spouse earns significantly more than the other. This often occurs when a woman gives up her career to get married, raise a family, and support her husband’s efforts to advance in his field. After a divorce, the woman has little relevant work experience and is not able to support herself and her children. 

California spousal support is designed to allow both spouses to maintain a standard of living similar to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. The factors that are considered when determining whether a woman is entitled to spousal support in California, for how long, and in what amount are outlined in California Family Code Section 4320-4326. These include:

  • Each spouse’s current earning capacity and ability to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The marketable skills of the spouse with the lower income and the current job market for those skills
  • How long it would take the spouse with the lower income to develop marketable job skills through training or education
  • How much unemployment during the marriage affected the lower-income spouse’s present or future earning capacity
  • How much the lower-income spouse contributed to the education, training, and career advancement of her spouse
  • The ability of the higher-income spouse to pay spousal support
  • The financial needs of each spouse
  • The obligations, debts, and assets of each party
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The number and age of the children
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • The tax consequences to each party
  • The balance of hardship to each party
  • Any other factors that the court considers just and relevant 

In California, spousal support is usually given with the goal that the lower-income spouse be self-supporting within a period of time. This time is usually no more than half the length of the marriage, but the court has the discretion to award spousal support for a longer or shorter period of time.

Do you have questions? Request your free copy of What Every Woman in California Should Know About Divorce, or contact the San Francisco women-only divorce attorneys at the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 415-341-1144.