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Can I Get Spousal Support While My Divorce is Pending?

Divorce is never pleasant under the best of circumstances. As spouses begin the transition to separate households, one household often undergoes more financial hardships than the other. California’s Family Code allows the courts to address this inequity. Division 9, Chapter 4, §3600 gives the court discretion to order one spouse to pay support to the other.  When one spouse proves the need for support, the court can require the other spouse to pay while the dissolution or legal separation is still pending. The court’s support order follows the same guidelines as an order issued at a final trial.

A Certified Specialist in Family Law

Contact Attorney Steven M. Bishop if you have concerns about paying or receiving spousal support. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, Attorney Bishop helps clients understand their legal rights in California. He realizes that financial issues are common for couples and families going through a dissolution or legal separation. They disrupt your peace of mind as you work to build your new life. They continue long after your dissolution or legal separation is final. Attorney Bishop provides compassionate guidance and assistance, and he works hard to resolve his clients’ support concerns.

Why Does Family Court Grant Spousal Support?

When a family dissolves a marriage or initiates a legal separation, they often undergo an immediate economic shift. Suddenly, both parties must handle the cost of separate living arrangements. The transition to independence is often financially challenging, but even more so for the spouse with inadequate income. If he or she also has primary custody of the children, it magnifies the income shortfall. Household expenses, food, utilities, and other costs often become unmanageable.

Custodial parents also struggle with additional financial challenges, even if they receive consistent child support payments. They often pay recreation expenses, extracurricular fees, and other costs that child support payments don’t always cover.  When appropriate, the court issues an order that legally commits the higher-earning spouse to provide spousal support to bridge the financial gap.

When Does the Court Grant Spousal Support?

A Family Court doesn’t automatically grant spousal support. Before rendering a decision the court examines a couple’s financial situations and many other factors. The primary goal is to allow the supported spouse to maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage. The court assesses the need and determines the spousal support amount by evaluating evidence that provides answers to relevant questions.

Marketable Skills

Does the supported spouse have any marketable skills? What is the market for these skills? Does the spouse need additional training?

Impaired Earning Capacity

Did periods of unemployment “…due to domestic duties…” impair the spouse’s current and future ability to earn a living?

Contribution to Spouse’s Career

Did the spouse seeking support contribute to the other spouse’s education, training, career, etc?

Capacity to Pay Support

Does the supporting spouse have enough income and assets to pay spousal support?

Needs Established During The Marriage

What was the couple’s standard of living during the marriage?

Assets and Liabilities

What separate obligations and assets does each spouse have?

Marriage Duration

How long did the marriage last?

Dependent Children

Can a custodial parent seeking spousal support earn a living without “…interfering with the interests of dependent children…?”

Personal Circumstances

How old are both spouses? Does either have any health issues?

Domestic Violence Issues

Was there any history of domestic violence during the marriage? Was a spouse ever convicted of domestic violence?

Tax Consequences

Will spousal support cause “…immediate and specific…” tax issues.

Before reaching a decision, the court has the discretion to consider these and any additional factors it deems just and equitable.

Does One Spouse Always Receive Support?

Unlike child support, one spouse is not automatically responsible for paying spousal support to another. As with any issue that goes before a court, the person in need of support must produce evidence that verifies their position. As the above parameters indicate, the court attempts to make reasonable decisions based on the spouse’s lifestyle, income, and financial need. The goal is to keep both spouses living as they are accustomed.

Also, it’s not always a matter of a male spouse supporting a female spouse. California Family Code clearly avoids male and female references. It uses the term, “spouse” instead of husband or wife. It refers to the involved parties as the “supported party” and the “supporting party.”  The wording makes it clear that either a man or a woman may be responsible for paying spousal support to the party with limited financial assets.

Is a Spousal Support Order Permanent?

Spousal support is meant to provide transitional assistance as an ex-spouse settles into his or her new life. This is true for temporary support while a divorce is pending as well as the judgment issued when the dissolution or legal separation is final. The laws include a clear expectation that the supported spouse must make an effort to improve their financial situation. It further concludes that a supported spouse must be able to support him or herself within a reasonable period of time.

The court defines a reasonable period as one-half the length of the marriage. This timeframe is subject to the court’s discretion. The expectations are more flexible when a supported spouse has health issues or a couple is dissolving a longstanding marriage. The court can modify or terminate a spousal support order under certain circumstances.

  • The supporting spouse shows good cause that a support order should be modified or terminated.
  • The order is unenforceable during any period where the divorcing parties have reconciled.
  • The supported party has separate assets or enough income to support themselves.
  • The supported party is living with someone in a non-marital relationship.
  • The court awards custody of the children to the supporting party

During a hearing or trial where the court considers spousal support, it sometimes admonishes the person seeking support that they should make a reasonable effort to support their own needs. Before formalizing a dissolution or legal separation, a court may have a vocation training counselor evaluate the supported spouse’s employment skills and abilities.

Contact The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop

If you need assistance with a spousal support order, Attorney Steven M. Bishop can provide the guidance and legal assistance you need. As a Certified Specialist in Family Law, he always puts your needs first. Attorney Bishop has helped many clients work through complicated dissolutions and legal separations. He wants to determine if he can help you. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (619) 299-9780 or complete our Contact Form.

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Discuss Your Case With An Experienced Family Law Specialist

To talk to our lawyer about your family law issue in a free telephone consultation, please call our office at 619-299-9780. You may also send us an email. We represent people throughout San Diego County in a host of different family law matters.

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The Law Offices of Steven M. Bishop, Attorney at Law, A California Corporation


591 Camino De La Reina, Suite 700

San Diego, CA 92108

Phone: 619-299-9780

Fax: 619-299-0316

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