In most divorce cases, a party may petition the court for spousal support AKA alimony payable by his or her spouse. In California, there are two types of spousal support payments, temporary and long term. This post will address temporary spousal support.
California courts have consistently maintained that the duty of the court in establishing temporary spousal support is to render a fair and appropriate order to reflect parties’ financial circumstances at or near the time of separation. In most cases, said status can be obtained by simply plugging numbers into a guideline calculation. In Los Angeles County, the dissomaster computer program performs this calculation. This really does away with much of the court's discretion and an attorney's ability to advocate. In some case, however, the use of dissomaster can render an unfair and inappropriate support orders, thus necessitating the trial court’s intervention.
For several decades, the courts have consistently upheld and promoted the trial court's exercise of wide discretion when rendering a temporary spousal support order. In re Marriage of Dick (1993) 15 Cal.App. 4th 144, 165. While exercising said discretion, courts can be called upon to look away from guideline formula calculation and instead focus on relevant and equitable facts presented in the case at hand. In re Marriage of Dick (1993) 15 Cal.App. 4th 144, 160-165; In re Marriage of Burlini (1983) 143 Cal. App. 3d 65, 70.
In Dick the court of appeals upheld the trial’s court issuance of a temporary spousal support order after consideration of a spouse’s (a) lavish lifestyle (b) access to funds (c) access to credit (d) access to free housing in an opulent residence (e) credibility in regards to his personal finances, and (f) the receipt of gifts. Id. at 159-166. The court further concluded that it was appropriate for the trial court to look and consider potential community property assets controlled by husband when establishing temporary spousal support. Id. at 160. The court specifically cited husband’s sole control and use of two extravagant residences, one of which was a nearly 8,600 square foot house in a neighborhood outside of Denver, Colorado. Id. at 163. The control over these assets undoubtedly impacted husband’s ability to pay support. Id. at 160-165.
Given the above, if you are dealing with issues surrounding temporary spousal support, it is imperative to hire a lawyer who knows the law and understands how to enforce it. Unlike the area of child support, creative and aggressive lawyering can help obtain an appropriate and fair temporary spousal support order.