Spousal Support: Needs of the Parties
In California, permanent spousal support is not determined by a formula. Whereas temporary spousal support is calculated using a formula identified in local rules, permanent spousal support is awarded by weighing 14 factors found in Family Code 4320. Chief among those factors are the needs of the parties based on their standard of living during the marriage. However, the weight given to this factor is within the discretion of the court, so long as the court does not act arbitrarily.
Why Does The Court Consider the Parties’ Needs
The Family Code 4320 requires the family court to consider the parties’ needs when setting permanent spousal support, but there are some important policy goals underlying the requirement. First, permanent support is designed to provide financial assistance after divorce relative to the parties’ financial circumstances. To that end, the court must evaluate the needs of the parties based on their standard of living to determine what level of financial assistance is needed.
What Counts as Permanent Support
Permanent spousal support isn’t limited to a monthly check. Some forms of spousal support include maintaining health insurance for the other party, making mortgage payments on their residence, or listing them as the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. Some of those forms of permanent support may be the product of the court’s consideration of the parties’ needs. (Other times these forms of spousal support are the product of your attorney’s representation to tailor support to your circumstances.) For instance, if the supporting spouse is elderly, the court may consider life insurance with the other party listed as beneficiary appropriate to secure continued support and thereby satisfy the supported party’s needs.
The court must consider the needs of each of the parties in awarding spousal support. The basis for determining the needs of the parties is the standard of living established during the marriage (ie. The general station in life the parties enjoyed during their marriage). That standard of living may be determined by their average income over a period of time. With that said, in reality there is no set formula for determining the marital standard of living.