How Spousal Support Is Calculated

     One of the most common issues in a divorce case in California is Spousal Support. This can cause considerable confusion to parties who do not fully understand what factors the Court uses in making a support order.

     Simply put, Spousal Support is a payment from the higher income spouse to the lower income spouse to maintain that person at the marital standard of living.

     California calculates Temporary Spousal Support using a computer guideline formula that is determined by the State Legislature and adopted into the Family Code. The basic formula determines 40% of the net income of the high wage earner and then subtracts 50% of the net income of the low wage earner, with some adjustments to each person’s figures for certain deductions such as health insurance costs, mandatory retirement contributions and union dues. These calculations are done with a special computer program used by Attorneys and the Courts.

     The figure that results is designed to maintain each spouse at something close to the marital standard of living while the case is pending. The formula is not designed to result in an amount that will exactly equal the parties’ standard of living. The purpose of the Temporary Spousal Support order is simply to provide a moderate living to each party while the case is proceeding.

     The final Spousal Support order is made at the end of the case. This is typically done at the final settlement meeting or if necessary, at a Trial. The Court is not allowed to use the Temporary Support calculation when setting the final support order. Instead, the Court must balance a wide array of factors such as age, education, earning history and health of the parties in making a support order