Spousal support used to be known as alimony. This term is no longer used in California. The purpose of spousal support is to help one spouse become self-supporting after separation. There are two types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. Temporary support is ordered during before the divorce becomes final. Permanent support is ordered at time of trial.
Spousal support is dependent upon a number of factors, one of which is whether the marriage was "lengthy" or "short-term." A "lengthy" marriage is any marriage that lasts for ten years or more. A "short-term" marriage is any marriage lasting for less than ten years. The length of the marriage is defined as the period between the date of marriage and the date of separation (not the divorce date). The date of separation is the date that one spouse first realizes that the marriage is over, cannot be repaired, and decides he or she wants a divorce.
In a lengthy marriage, there is a possibility that the payor of spousal support will have to pay support for the rest of his or her life. In a short-term marriage, support is generally paid for one-half the length of the marriage.
Temporary support is generally calculated with the use of a computer program, whereas permanent support is weighed against many factors; such as each party's age, earning ability, education, health, work history, financial need, ability to contribute, personal assets, and the length of the marriage. All spousal support orders are discretionary. The court can make whatever orders it believes are fair under the circumstances.
As a rule of thumb, if only one spouse worked and the marriage was a lenghty one, the working spouse should expect to pay support for a significant amount of time, as well as a portion of the other party's attorney fees. Spousal support orders can be as high as 45% of the working spouse's net income.