When a couple in Sacramento County decides to end their marriage, the issue of spousal support can be troubling to both parties. Generally, the court will order the higher earning spouse to pay alimony (or “spousal support”) to the lower earning spouse. This generality has been modified by the California legislature to include a list of several factors that they must use in calculating both temporary and permanent spousal support. Sacramento County courts use the “Santa Clara method” for calculating temporary support: 40% of the high earners net income (less child support) minus 50% of low earner’s net income.

The factors include the length of the marriage, the age and health of each spouse, the standard of living that the couple enjoyed during their marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, each spouse’s ability to contribute to maintaining the standard of living they enjoyed during their marriage, whether one spouse helped the other obtain an education or career training and whether the income of one spouse was lowered by the duties of child care. Other issues that may have an impact on support are the tax impact of paying or receiving support and whether either spouse was guilty domestic abuse toward the other spouse or other family members.

Another important issue is the duration of court-ordered support payments. For shorter marriages, usually ones that ended short of ten years, the court will specify that spousal support will continue for a length of time equal to ½ the length of the marriage. For marriages that lasted longer than ten years, the judge may not set an end date for support payments.

The issue of spousal support can become very complex if the couple owns substantial assets. The advice of an experienced divorce attorney can help prevent uniformed decisions that may turn out to be unexpectedly costly.