Permanent spousal support starts when you finish your divorce. Permanent support doesn’t mean support will be paid forever, but it’s the spousal support order in your divorce agreement. The purpose of permanent support is different from temporary support. Permanent support is paid so the lower earner can maintain the standard of living the spouse had during marriage, or as close to it as possible. The marital standard of living, referred to as the MSOL, is the lifestyle a couple
enjoyed during the marriage.
MSOL is more than just how much the couple spent their money on basic needs, like gas, groceries, housing, and clothing. It also includes how much was spent
on eating out, savings, and travel. After divorce, both spouses have a right to continue enjoying that lifestyle.
But it’s nearly impossible for both spouses to continue living at that standard because many expenses, like rent, insurance, internet, and utilities, double. As a result, permanent spousal support is typically less than the MSOL, but still more support than what would cover the supported spouse’s basic needs.
Since permanent support is about your standard of living, the judge is not allowed to use support software as with temporary spousal support to figure out the permanent amount. Instead, the judge must carefully consider Family Code Section 4320. This code section lists all the circumstances that are important to figuring out permanent support including how much the parties earn; their standard of living; their age; their health; and whether they could both work. Although this information is helpful, because there’s no formula, you can arrive at a different support amount in the same case. This makes permanent far more subjective than
Even though there’s no formula for permanent support, and the judge cannot use a support calculator, you can simplify the process for yourself and use the support calculator for guidance. It’s very common for divorce professionals to use temporary spousal support calculators as a starting point. The calculators provide tax information, net income, and other useful information. Once you have the temporary number, then analyze the factors in Section 4320 carefully to negotiate whether the temporary number should change. Except in unusual circumstances, permanent support is similar to the temporary support number. There is some case law that suggests it should be less, but that is often dependent on the 4320 factors and how much time has passed from the date of separation.
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