How Much Child and Spousal Support (Alimony) Will a Court Order?

Spousal Support/Alimony

In California the Court will order Spousal Support if requested, but only if one party makes more money than the other.   Generally, the Court will look at the parties’ income in the last 12 months.  

The Court and most family law attorneys use a computer program called “Dissomaster” to figure out the amount of spousal support. The main factor is the last 12 months income, but the Dissomaster and the Court can take other factors into consideration, such as income from your new mate, any other support you have to pay on former cases, hardships, etc.  

Furthermore, since there are no juries in family law, the Judges have some discretion because the Family Law Court is not only controlled by the laws in the Family Code, ( ); the Family Law Court is also a Court of Equity, which means the Judges should be fair and equitable as well.   

If you believe that your ex is intentionally diminishing his/her income, laying about his income or does not report any income at all we can help. If he or she refuses to work yet has skills and could work, the Court may “impute” any income to them. After all, someone with a college education should be able to make at least $35,000 a year.It is all up to a Judge to decide who pays how much. Some Judges will go back 3 years and others will take into account the total financial picture of the individuals. For example, if the divorce is final and each party received a million dollars in liquid assets by splitting their community property, a smart Family Law Attorney may argue that if the million dollars were properly invested, it would bring income of at least $50,000 a year, which should be imputed to the other spouse.

To give you an idea of how much support could be paid, if one spouse is making $50,000 a year and the other is making $0, the spouse making $0 may get  $1,600 in spousal support. If one spouse is making $100,000 a year, and the other makes $25,000, the lesser earning spouse may get $2,794.

Child Support

In California, child support is calculated by a computer program, usually the” Dissomaster”.  Also, see Family Code 4055 for the complicated formula. (

The main two factors to see how much support is paid are the amount of time you spend with the child/children and the parties’ last 12 months income.  For example, if one spouse has primary custody of 2 children 80% of the time and is not working outside the home and the other spouse makes $50,000 a year and gets a 20% time share with the kids, the non-working spouse may get $883 a month. However, a good Family Law Attorney can possibly negotiate different amounts and “add on” amounts to prevent the Court from ordering additional expenses such as private school tuition, tutoring, payment for sports, lessons, etc.    

The Court may order a different amount of child support only for good cause because the guideline child support number is “presumed” to be correct.  This is the link to see the Family Code child support laws.  (

This presumption can be rebutted, by showing that the guideline formula would be “unjust or inappropriate”.

To do so, you must persuade the Court that either your spouse agreed to a different amount, or that certain circumstances apply such as:

  • The sale of the family residence is deferred….. and the rental value of the family residence where the children reside exceeds the mortgage payments, homeowner’s insurance, and property taxes; or
  • The parent being ordered to pay child support has an extraordinarily high income and the amount determined under the formula would exceed the needs of the children; or
  • A party is not contributing to the needs of the children at a level commensurate with that party’s custodial time; or
  • Application of the formula would be unjust or inappropriate due to special circumstances in the particular case. These special circumstances include, but are not limited to, the following:
    • Cases in which the parents have different time-sharing arrangements for different children.
    • Cases in which both parents have substantially equal time-sharing of the children and one parent has a much lower or higher percentage of income used for housing than the other parent.
    • Cases in which the children have special medical or other needs that could require child support greater than the formula amount.
    • Cases in which a child is found to have more than two parents. (Yes, this is possible!)

How long do I have to pay Support?

Child support continues until a child turns 18 except when the 18-year-old child is still a full-time high school student and lives with a parent.  Then, child support terminates when the child turns 19 or graduates from high school, whichever occurs first.

In California child support also ends if a child marries, joins the military, or is “emancipated”.

In addition, Parents can also agree to support an adult child and we can help you negotiate who will pay for college, etc. and also with starting a college saving plan.

Spousal Support

Spousal Support, (formerly known as Alimony) is usually paid for ½ the length of the marriage if the marriage was less than 10 years.  If the marriage is over 10 years, it is considered a long-term marriage and spousal support may be ordered for life! This is particularly true if one spouse gave up their career, or one spouse has no marketable skills or job prospects or is too old or disabled or sick to work.  However, a great family law attorney may be able to negotiate a “buyout” at a discount.  Call Jay Devitt for details. This may work to both spouses’ advantage since the spouse getting the buyout can remarry without losing their support and can get a job without fear of their support diminishing, since it is prepaid! The other spouse usually gets a discount and no longer has to make monthly payments.

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