Spousal Support

Orange County Spousal Support Attorney

Spousal support (commonly referred to as “alimony”) can be contentious when a divorce occurs, or partners go their separate ways. Spousal support is not ordered in every case. Whether you’re trying to obtain spousal support or avoid it, you need a skilled family law attorney in Orange County who can effectively argue your case. The spousal support attorneys at Kaufman Steinberg are here to help.

Types of Spousal Support

Spousal Support

Spousal support is money one spouse pays to the other during or after separation. It’s awarded when a marriage ends, and the couple doesn’t have enough income from work, investments, pensions, etc., to maintain their lifestyle. Spousal support is typically paid in regular monthly installments or can be negotiated as a lump sum payment depending upon your circumstance.

 Spousal support is intended to be rehabilitative and transitional. It’s meant to help the lower-earning spouse get back on their feet while they obtain new education or training so that they can become self-sufficient again. Spousal support may also be awarded if one spouse has taken care of children or needs to recover from an illness that prevents them from working while the family court looks into whether permanent spousal support will be granted.

When there is a legal separation or divorce, the parties can agree to support in a specific amount and duration. If they can’t reach an agreement, a judge can order one spouse to pay the other support. 


This “spousal support” for married couples is also referred to as “alimony.”

An order to pay such support can be ordered in these cases:

  • Divorce, legal separation, or annulment (in some cases)
  • Cases of domestic violence involving restraining orders

You can request a “temporary spousal support order” while your case is ongoing. Support may also be ordered as part of a final divorce or separation judgment. When support is ordered in a final judgment, it’s called “permanent” (or “long-term”) spousal or partner support.

California Family Code Section 4320

When the court orders the final spousal or partner support order, the judge will consider the factors enumerated  in California Family Code section 4320, including, but not limited to:

  • How long the marriage or domestic partnership lasted;
  • What each party needs based on their standard of living during the marriage;
  • What each person earns, or can pay, to maintain that standard of living;
  • Whether working would make it too difficult to care for young children;
  • The age and health of both parties;
  • Debts and property of each spouse;
  • Whether one party helped the other obtain an education, training, career, or professional license;
  • Whether domestic violence involving the parties occurred;
  • Whether a career was impacted by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home;
  • The impact of taxes on spousal support; and
  • Any other equitable factors that may apply.

Spousal support can be ordered for a “specified” or an “indefinite” period of time.

  • The court can specify the duration of spousal support in years if:
  • A marriage lasted ten years or less; 
  • The party seeking spousal support makes more money than the other.

If you don’t make this request when you get your final spousal support order, you can file a motion to request a new spousal support order later if there is a change in circumstances. 

Spousal Support Circumstances

If your standard of living during marriage or domestic partnership was higher than the amount of spousal or partner support ordered, you may not be entitled to ask for more later. If one person has enough property and/or to meet their needs, they can’t ask for spousal or partner support later on if they don’t ask for it at first.

In some circumstances, if a party is self-employed or receives perquisites through their employer, a forensic accountant may be useful to assess a true and accurate cash flow available for support. This is common where one spouse believes the other spouse is “hiding money,” is unfamiliar with the other spouse’s income or employment benefits, or the needs of one spouse must be expertly assessed based upon the marital standard of living.

If you are ordered to pay support but fall behind in making payments, you will likely be ordered to pay the legal interest rate (currently 10% per annum) on the balance due. These interest charges are added by law and cannot be stopped by the judge. If the court finds you could pay the required support but willfully decided not to pay it, you could be found “in contempt of court.” Though it rarely happens, being found in contempt of court could result in jail time.

The spousal support order becomes part of the final divorce or legal separation judgment. However, that’s not always the end of the story. After a final judgment, either ex-spouse or ex-domestic partner may request a change to the amount of support if there is a sufficient “change in circumstances” in which something significant has changed since the original support order was made.

Spousal and domestic partner support normally stops if:

  • A court order or judgment terminates it;
  • One of the parties dies; or
  • The person receiving the support remarries.

Spousal or partner support can have a significant financial impact on the parties paying and receiving it. It’s an important issue that requires the skilled, knowledgeable efforts of a veteran spousal support attorney. Having represented spousal support payers and recipients for decades, the spousal support lawyers at Kaufman Steinberg are experienced in these matters. If you are now, or may in the future be, involved in spousal or partner support proceedings, contact Kaufman Steinberg today so you can discuss your situation with an Orange County spousal support attorney.

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