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Understanding California Family Code Section 4320: Factors in Determining Post-Judgment Spousal Support

Posted by Michael Geller | Nov 01, 2023 | 0 Comments

Spousal support, often a contentious issue in divorce proceedings, is critical in ensuring financial fairness between parties post-divorce. In California, Family Code Section 4320 outlines the factors courts consider when determining post-judgment spousal support. This blog delves into the specifics of Section 4320, providing insights into how courts make these important decisions and what parties can expect during this process.

Overview of Family Code Section 4320

Family Code Section 4320 provides a comprehensive list of factors that courts must evaluate when deciding on the amount and duration of spousal support. This section aims to ensure that the support award is fair and considers the unique circumstances of each case.

Key Factors Considered Under Section 4320

  1. Earning Capacity of Each Party: The court examines the ability of each party to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage. This includes assessing the marketable skills of the supported party, the job market for those skills, the time and expenses required for education or training, and the extent to which the supported party's future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage.

  2. Contributions to the Other Party's Education and Career: Courts consider whether one party contributed to the education, training, or career advancement of the other party. Such contributions often justify higher spousal support to compensate the supporting party.

  3. Supporting Spouse's Ability to Pay: The court evaluates the supporting spouse's ability to pay spousal support, taking into account their earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

  4. Needs of Each Party: The needs of each party are assessed based on the standard of living established during the marriage. This includes housing, healthcare, education, and other living expenses.

  5. Duration of the Marriage: Generally, longer marriages justify longer periods of support. A marriage of 10 years or more is often considered a "long-term" marriage, affecting the duration and amount of support.

  6. Children's Needs and Custody Arrangements: If there are minor children involved, the court considers their needs and how the custody arrangements impact the supported party's ability to work.

  7. Age and Health of the Parties: The ages and health conditions of both parties are critical factors. Older or ill parties may require more support due to their limited earning capacity.

  8. Domestic Violence: Documented evidence of domestic violence by one party against the other or the children affects the support determination, potentially increasing the support awarded to the victimized party.

  9. Tax Consequences: The court considers the immediate and specific tax implications of spousal support for both parties. Changes in tax laws, such as the 2019 federal tax change where spousal support is no longer tax-deductible, play a significant role in this consideration.

  10. Balance of Hardships: The court assesses the relative hardships to each party, striving to balance financial inequities post-divorce.

  11. Goal of Becoming Self-Supporting: An essential goal of spousal support is for the supported party to become self-supporting within a reasonable period. Generally, this period is considered to be half the length of a marriage lasting less than 10 years.

  12. Other Factors: Courts may also consider any other factors they deem just and equitable. This broad category allows for flexibility and consideration of unique circumstances in each case.

Practical Implications for Divorce Proceedings

Understanding the factors outlined in Family Code Section 4320 is crucial for both parties in a divorce. For the supported spouse, it's important to provide evidence demonstrating the need for support and how the marriage impacted their earning capacity. For the supporting spouse, presenting a clear picture of their financial situation and ability to pay is equally important.


California Family Code Section 4320 ensures that spousal support decisions are fair and based on a comprehensive evaluation of each party's circumstances. By meticulously analyzing these factors, courts strive to balance the financial scales post-divorce, facilitating a smoother transition for both parties. Whether you are seeking spousal support or contesting it, understanding these factors can help you better navigate the complexities of divorce proceedings. As always, consulting with a knowledgeable divorce attorney can provide invaluable guidance tailored to your specific situation.

About the Author

Michael Geller

Michael Geller is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of California.


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