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Spousal Support: How Much and for How Long?

For the most part, calculating child support in California is as simple as plugging the appropriate numbers into a computer program. The number that the programshutterstock_211252453 (Dissomaster) spits out is generally the amount that one can expect to pay or receive in child support. Spousal support isn’t that simple.

Determining the amount of Spousal Support using Family Code Section 4320

California divorce courts utilize Family Code Section 4320 to analyze the issue of spousal support. This family code section provides a number of factors to be considered in making an order for spousal support. Divorce lawyers refer to these as “4320 Factors.” The 4320 factors include:

a. Whether or not each party has the ability to earn income sufficient to sustain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.

b. The extent to which the spouse seeking spousal support contributed to the attainment of the education or career position of the other spouse.

c. The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support after consideration of earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

d. The needs of each party based on the marital standard of living.

e. The assets and debts of each party including separate property.

f. The length of the marriage.

g. The ability of the party seeking spousal support to engage in gainful employment without interfering with the parent’s ability to care for the minor children of the marriage.

h. The age and health of the parties.

i. Documented evidence of domestic violence.

j. The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.

A good divorce lawyer will know how to present an argument on the issue of spousal support that touches on every factor and includes evidence relevant to every factor. “No single factor should be downplayed as irrelevant as evidence relating to each factor can have a significant impact on the ultimate amount of support ordered in your divorce”, says John Griffith, a Divorce lawyer in Encinitas, California. Consider this hypothetical for example:

Husband and Wife were married for 25 years. During the marriage the parties had four children. When the parties started having children, Wife stopped working so that she could care for the children. At the time f the divorce, Husband earns $200,000 a year. Husband is 61 and Wife is 47.In this example the age of the parties is an extremely relevant factor in determining what the ongoing spousal support order should be. A good divorce lawyer experienced in spousal support litigation would argue that spousal support should be discounted to account for the fact that Husband is much closer to retirement age than is Wife. As such, Wife, has many more years of earning potential which includes many more years for her to contribute to her retirement. As part of the divorce Wife is already receiving 50% of the retirement savings accrued to date. Husband has only a few more years to add to what has been divided in the divorce, as such, he should pay less spousal support in order to balance this perceived inequity.

Duration of Spousal Support and the “10 Year Rule”

The general rule for the duration of spousal support is governed by the “10 Year Rule.” The 10 Year Rule is a general rule providing that the length of spousal support in a marriage lasting less than 10 years should be equal to one half the length of the marriage, while the duration of spousal support in a long term marriage lasting longer than 10 years is indefinite. It is important to note that the 10 Year Rule is a statutory guideline. The family court judge has discretion to order spousal support for longer than half the length of the marriage in a short term marriage if the circumstances provide that this would be appropriate.

Spousal Support is an issue that is more often than not a highly contested aspect of any divorce. Griffith, Young & Lass is a team of skilled and experienced divorce lawyers in Encinitas, California. We represent family law clients in all parts of San Diego County. Whether yours is a high income or low income spousal support case, or attorneys will come up with a plan for you that considers your unique concerns and circumstances. Call us now for a free 30 minute consultation. 858-345-1720

Meet Your Dedicated San Diego Family Attorneys
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS
Family Attorney John N. Griffith, CFLS

Family Attorney, John N. Griffith, CFLS

John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization.


Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.
Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

Family Attorney, Catie E. Young, ESQ.

San Diego family lawyer Catie Young has a wide range of litigation experience. She has worked in civil litigation. She has successfully represented clients in many areas of family law including child support, child custody, divorce and domestic violence. She has a unique approach to each child custody case, so clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases.


Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.
Family Attorney Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Family Attorney, Amy J. Lass, Esq.

Amy Lass was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting and went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006. Amy takes a practical and cost considerate approach to the process while striving to balance the emotional needs and objectives of her clients.


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The Typical Divorce Process in California
Discovery of Assets & Obligations (1-3 months)
1 Complaint for Divorce Filed Start of litigation
2 Complaint is Served Varies, but usually shortly after the complaint is filed
3 Answer to Complaint Due 30 days from the date of service
4 Mediation Anytime, but usually after initial discovery
5 Temporary Hearing Usually early in the process
6 Late Case Evaluation / Judicial Hosted Settlement Conference Usually near the end of the case
7 Trial (If Needed) The goal is to settle, but if your case goes to trial, it could take months after the start of litigation.
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