Permanent spousal support is not a guarantee in divorce. The determination of whether to award permanent spousal support and in what amount is guided by a multifactored inquiry found in Family Code 4320 instead of a formula. One of the most important factors in that determination is the length of the marriage. In general, the longer the marriage, the more likely permanent spousal support will be granted.
Note – temporary spousal support is determined by a formula identified in local rules, unlike permanent spousal support.
Goal Behind Permanent Spousal Support
Temporary spousal support is designed to equalize litigating power between the parties pending divorce by maintaining the status quo. After all, it would be inequitable to deny a stay-at-home mom with the support necessary to give her equal litigating power so she can press her claims for equal division of community property.
Unlike temporary spousal support, permanent spousal support provides financial support relative to the parties’ financial circumstances.
Forms of Permanent Spousal Support
Permanent spousal support isn’t limited to financial payments to the former spouse. The court may order other forms of financial assistance to provide the former spouse with financial support relative to the parties’ financial circumstances. For instance, the court may order a party to maintain health insurance for the other spouse. Likewise, in a divorce involving a lengthy marriage, the court may order a party to list the other spouse as a life insurance beneficiary to secure their financial support in the event of death.
Length of Marriage
The court will look at how long the marriage lasted in setting permanent spousal support. This factor is more important in deciding the length of time for which support should be paid, rather than the amount of support that should be paid. As mentioned before, permanent support is not always ‘permanent,’ and the duration can be shortened or extended by the court. The length of the parties’ marriage will affect the court’s decision of whether jurisdiction over spousal support should be retained indefinitely or for a limited time.