Certain steps in a divorce are automatic. If you and your spouse share minor children, for example, issuing a temporary child support order as part of the early custody arrangements usually occurs quickly and without a specific request from the person filing for divorce.

However, while every child should receive child support from the non-custodial parent, not every couple has a situation that necessitates spousal support, sometimes also called alimony or spousal maintenance.

Spousal support will only be an option if you specifically request that the court order it. Learning a little bit about how the California courts determine the necessary amount of spousal support can help you decide if you have grounds to make a request for support as part of your divorce.

The courts will look closely at the circumstances of your marriage

As with child support, the amount of spousal support ordered and its duration will be a reflection of your marital arrangement and individual situation. The courts will consider a variety of elements from your marriage, including how long it lasted, the financial and practical contributions of each spouse to the household, custody arrangements for children, the current and potential future income of each spouse, and the health of the spouses involved.

In a situation when both spouses have remained part of the workforce and both are physically healthy, the courts will likely expect both of them to work and may only order temporary spousal support if they deem it necessary. In a situation where one spouse has stayed home to care for property or children, or where they have health conditions that will prevent them from working, it is more likely that the courts will order significant support to be paid by one spouse to the other.

How long can you expect support to last?

The duration of spousal support will also depend on a number of factors. If you were a stay-at-home spouse for much of your marriage and are close to the age of retirement, you might qualify for permanent spousal support. The same is true of a parent who will have permanent responsibilities for a child with special needs who will not become independent at adulthood and who requires significant levels of support on a daily basis.

For those who are young and healthy enough to work and whose familial obligations did not preclude them from pursuing a career, it is more likely that the courts will order temporary support. This will help someone cover their expenses as they establish themselves in a new profession or seek education that will help them be more competitive on the current job market.