The term “spousal support” can refer to both “permanent” and “temporary” spousal support. This general use of the term can lead to confusion and mistaken impressions as the calculation of both is markedly different. Whereas temporary spousal support is calculated using a formula, permanent spousal support is determined by weighing 14 factors identified in Family Code 4320. One of those factors is the goal of self-support, which may find it’s way into a Gavron warning should permanent spousal support be ordered.
Factor Against Spousal Support
The amount of permanent spousal support awarded is often lower than temporary spousal support. One of the factors behind lower permanent spousal support awards is the court’s obligation to award support in line with the ultimate goal that the supported spouse will become self-supporting within a reasonable time following divorce. This factor above many others is used by family law attorneys to discount permanent spousal support awards and shorten their duration.
Family Code 4320(l)
The court will bear in mind the goal underlying the Gavron warning that the recipient will be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. A reasonable period of time is generally calculated as one-half of the length of the marriage. This formula, however, does not apply to marriages of long duration, which are marriages existing for ten years or longer.
The court can order support for a longer or shorter period based on the parties’ circumstances. For example, a homemaker from a long marriage may find it very difficult to find a job, and it may be just and equitable to order spousal support for a longer period.
Unwilling to Work
A party’s unwillingness or unreasonable delay in seeking employment can also influence the amount and duration of support, both in the original order and future modifications. For instance, if the supported party is a licensed medical doctor who chooses to enroll in art school rather than practice medicine, the court may reduce spousal support as the party is unwilling to pursue employment consistent with the obligation to become self-supporting.