You can ask for a spousal or partner support order once you file (start) your case. You can get temporary orders for spousal or partner support while you are waiting for the final judgment in your case.
To set up a spousal or partner support order, you or your spouse/partner must request an order from the court.
How to do this depends on:
The family law facilitator in your court may be able to help you with your paperwork. Find out if you can get help before you try to do it completely on your own. Click to see all the forms you may need to ask for spousal or partner support, but read the rest of this section to make sure you are using the right forms for your situation.
If you are married or you are registered domestic partners, you can ask for a spousal or partner support order in these kinds of cases:
Divorce (also called “Dissolution”),
Click for more information on getting a divorce, legal separation, or annulment.
Domestic Violence Restraining Order
Find more information on getting a domestic violence restraining order and requesting spousal or partner support.
Local Child Support Agency (formerly the District Attorney) Enforcement Case
Learn more about the local child support agency.
Once you have started one of these cases, you can ask for a spousal or partner support order.
You cannot ask for spousal or partner support in a parentage/paternity case. If you or your spouse or domestic partner has filed for an annulment (called a “nullity of marriage” or “nullity of domestic partnership”), you should talk with a lawyer to find out if you can ask for spousal or partner support in that case. Click for help finding a lawyer.
Remember, you have to have an open divorce or legal separation case, or a domestic violence restraining order case, to ask for a spousal or partner support order. Learn how to open a case.
To ask for temporary support in your divorce or legal separation
The most common way to ask for a court hearing on spousal or partner support is:
Read Going to Court to find out how to prepare for your court hearing.
Keep in mind that your court’s family law facilitator may be able to help you mediate your spousal or partner support issues. So even after you ask for a court date, you can try to work out spousal or partner support with your spouse or partner. If you can work out an agreement, the facilitator may help you write it up and turn it in to the judge for his or her signature, making it a court order. If you do not reach an agreement in mediation, you can still go in front of the judge so he or she can make a decision in your case.
After the court hearing
Once the judge makes a decision at the court hearing, the judge will sign a court order. In some courtrooms, the clerk or court staff will prepare this order for the judge’s signature. In other courtrooms, it is the responsibility of the person who asked for the hearing to prepare the court order for the judge to sign. If either side has a lawyer, the lawyer will usually be asked to prepare the order.
If you have to prepare this order, you will need to fill out the Findings and Order After Hearing (Form FL-340), and the Spousal, Partner, or Family Support Order Attachment (Form FL-343). Also, if there were any other orders made, like child support or custody and visitation, those forms have to be filled out and attached too.
Remember, the family law facilitator can probably help you with all these forms. So ask the facilitator for help or have him or her review the forms to make sure you did not make any mistakes.
To ask for a spousal or partner support order with your domestic violence restraining order
The procedure for writing up your spousal or partner support agreement and getting a judge’s signature so that it becomes a court order may be a little different from court to court.
Spouses or domestic partners can agree to a spousal or partner support order. By agreeing and signing a written agreement (a stipulation), they do not have to go in front of a judge and leave the decision up to him or her.
The family law facilitator in your court can help you work out a spousal or partner support agreement and write up the agreement.
To write up a spousal or partner support agreement:
Find more information on the advantages of having the LCSA help you collect your spousal or partner support order.
IMPORTANT! The local child support agency (LCSA) does not represent you or your spouse/domestic partner. The LCSA lawyers are not your lawyers. You are not a legal client, and the information you give the LCSA is NOT confidential.
LCSA lawyers can give certain information about your case to other agencies, your spouse/partner, or your spouse’s or partner’s employer or lawyer.
The law says the LCSA will make the final decision on spousal or partner support enforcement, even if the spouse or partner that has primary custody of the children disagrees.
You have the right to get advice from a private lawyer or legal aid group at any time. Click for help finding a lawyer. And you can also ask the family law facilitator for information.
Whether or not you have a temporary spousal or partner support order, you can ask the court to make a permanent or long-term spousal or partner support order as part of your divorce or legal separation judgment (your final judgment).
To determine how much long-term or permanent spousal or partner support to order as part of your judgment (if any), the judge will not use a formula. Instead, when the judge makes his or her final spousal or partner support order, the judge must consider the factors in California Family Code section 4320.>These factors include:
So when you ask the court to make a permanent or long-term spousal or partner support order, ask for an amount that takes into consideration these factors, and explain why you believe, in light of all these factors, the amount you are asking for is reasonable.
You may want to use the form Spousal or Partner Support Declaration Attachment (Form FL-157). It can be used to ask the court for spousal or partner support, or to ask for a change in the order, and it helps you make sure you address all of the factors the judge must consider when making an order for spousal or partner support. If you do not want to use it in your request for permanent or long-term support, at least take a look at it since it can help you see what factors the law considers in determining spousal or partner support.
Read the rest of this section and talk to a lawyer to learn more about permanent or long-term spousal or partner support. Click for help finding a lawyer. Your court's family law facilitator may also be able to give you more information.
Understanding the Factors the Judge Must Consider
Earning capacity and the standard of living during the marriage or partnership
A judge must consider what each spouse or partner can earn to keep a standard of living close to what they each had during the marriage or partnership.
To do this, the judge looks at the:
Length of the marriage or domestic partnership
The duration of a permanent or long-term spousal or partner support order is closely related to the length of the marriage or domestic partnership. The goal of spousal or partner support is that the spouse or partner getting support will be able to support himself or herself within a reasonable period of time.
The law says that, in general, a “reasonable period of time” may be one-half the length of the marriage/partnership. BUT the law also says that the judge has discretion (power) to make a different decision given the specific circumstances of the case.
There is an important exception. When a marriage or partnership is considered a “long-term” marriage or partnership (usually 10 years or more), the judge may not set an end date to the spousal or partner support.
The length of the marriage or domestic partnership is generally from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation. Because the date of separation can have very important consequences when it comes to deciding spousal or partner support, the parties in a divorce or separation case may not be able to agree on a date of separation, and the judge may have to decide what that date will be. Also, the judge can take into account the periods of separation during the marriage/partnership in deciding if the marriage/partnership is of long duration.
Domestic violence and spousal or partner support
When deciding spousal or partner support, the judge must take into account documented evidence of any history of domestic violence between the parties.
When the spouse or partner that would pay the support is the abusive person, the judge will consider any emotional distress resulting from the violence suffered by the spouse or partner to be supported.
The judge will also consider any history of violence at the hands of the spouse or partner to be supported against the person that would pay the support. And there is a rebuttable presumption against giving spousal or partner support to an abusive spouse or partner who has a criminal conviction for domestic violence against the other spouse or partner.