Child Support and Spousal Support

Child support: is the amount of money that a court orders a parent or both parents to pay every month to help pay for the support of the child (or children) and the child’s living expenses.  Child support may be established through a divorce or a paternity action (for parents whom were not married).  

    The amount of child support is a product of custody and visitation along with both parent's monthly income.  In most cases, child support is established by "guideline", however the judge has the final authority to determine the amount of a child support order.  



For the most up to date guideline estimate, visit the California Guideline Calculator.  Here you can access the most up to date estimate of child support.

What can child support be spent on?

A: The parent receiving child support has no obligation to account for this money, nor does the parent paying child support have any right to dictate how the money should be spent. Child support does not necessarily include all expenses associated with raising the child. For example, expenses such as childcare or uninsured healthcare costs are equally divided and are not part of guideline child support.

Spousal Support: is the amount of money that a court orders a one spouse to pay the other spouse each month in order to maintain the living standard that was shared during the marriage. Spousal support is also established by a type of "guideline", however the judge has the final authority to determine the amount of spousal support to be ordered.  There are specific factors that the judge takes into consideration when determining spousal support.  These factors include:


  • The length of the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children;

  • The age and health of both people;

  • Debts and property;

  • Whether 1 spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license;

  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership;

  • Whether 1 spouse’s, or domestic partner’s, career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home; and

  • The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws have not been changed to recognize domestic partnerships).

What is the Purpose of Spousal Support?

  • Temporary spousal support is to maintain the living conditions and standards of both parties until permanent support has been determined, along with the final division of assets and debts.

  • The purpose of the permanent spousal support is different. It is to provide the spouse with sufficient income for their basic needs and to ensure that their lifestyle will be able to remain consistent after the divorce.

  • It is the policy of the State of California that both parties become self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time. Spousal support is meant to bridge that gap between the time it takes for the supported spouse to obtain employment or resources that meet their cost of living needs.

How Long Will I Pay or Receive Spousal Support?

  • The length of spousal support is based on a reasonable transition period from married life to single and self-sufficient life.

  • The duration of support depends on in part on the length of the marriage. For marriages lasting less than ten years, the length of support is presumed to be equal to one-half of the time. For example, for a marriage that lasted eight years, the presumption is that the appropriate length of support is four years.

  • If you are married for longer than 10 years, the lesser earning spouse will receive support for as long as he or she needs to, as long as the other spouse is able to pay. There is no automatic termination date.

Click here to complete a Child Support / Spousal Support Intake

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