Factors That Determine Spousal Support


Clients often ask, “Who gets spousal support?”. The answer is relatively simple: Spouses! However, it is more complex than that, especially if the question is: can YOU receive spousal support? Spousal support depends on many factors including, the length of the marriage, and how much each spouse earns.

Length of the Marriage

According to Family Code Section 4336 (b), “a marriage of 10 years or more, from the date of marriage to the date of separation, is a marriage of long duration”. Long-term marriages generally result in permanent spousal support orders, which have no end date outside of remarriage, death of the spouse, or further order of the Court. However, permanent support orders can be modified if there is a change of circumstances. For short-term marriages, spousal support is generally awarded for a duration equal to half the length of the marriage.


Each spouse’s income is crucial in determining spousal support. If both spouses have identical incomes, most often the Court will not order one spouse to pay the other support. However, when one spouse makes considerably more than the other, the Court can award temporary spousal support and/or permanent spousal support at trial.

Additional Factors

In addition to the aforementioned, the Court reviews factors described in Family Code Section 4320, including instances of domestic violence between the parties, marketable skills of the supported party, the ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, etc.

The Court also considers “that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.” Except for long term marriages, a “reasonable period” is generally considered to be one-half the length of the marriage. However, this does not prohibit the Court to ask the supported party to become self-supporting even in a long-term marriage. While determining support can appear straight forward, the process is often not. As always, having an experienced family law attorney by your side will help you assess your rights and navigate you through the process.

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