Obtaining a temporary or permanent spousal support order

Spousal support is a court-ordered certain amount of support money that one legally separated partner must pay the other each month. This support is also known as alimony. In California, in order for the court to order spousal support, there must be an established court case. You may ask the court to order spousal support as part of a divorce case, legal separation, annulment, or a domestic violence restraining order.

Temporary spousal support orders can be ordered while the case is ongoing. You can request a spousal support order once you file, or start, your case. Temporary orders may be granted while you are waiting on a final judgement in your case. How to request temporary spousal support depends on whether you have an existing family court case or whether you are filing an initial case.

In California, once you have started a divorce case, legal separation, annulment, or domestic violence restraining order, you can ask for a spousal support order.

First steps to obtaining a temporary order

Once you have begun your court case, you will need to fill out a request for order and an income and expense declaration. Your court’s family law facilitator can ensure you filled out this paperwork properly and you will then file the paperwork with the court clerk. You will receive a court date from the clerk and someone else – not you – will need to serve your spouse with the papers. You will then attend your given court date.

California judges generally use a formula to calculate the amount of temporary spousal support. Judges in different counties may use different factors in calculating temporary support, but the factors will vary only slightly.

Even if you do not have a temporary spousal support order, you can ask the court to issue a permanent or long-term spousal support order as part of your divorce final judgement. The judge must consider a number of factors to determine how much permanent spousal support you will receive as part of your judgement.

These factors include, among others:

  • the length of the marriage
  • what each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage
  • what each person can pay
  • care of children
  • age and health of both spouses
  • debts and property
  • the tax impact of spousal support

Because temporary and permanent spousal support orders require complex paperwork and determinations, it can be helpful to consult with a family law attorney to understand what may be possible and determine the best way forward.