Spousal Support Q & A

As a Certified Family Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience, attorney Michael P. McDeavitt has handled a wide range of spousal support matters. He shares some of his expertise regarding spousal support in California for you below.

Q: How is spousal support determined?

A: Spousal support (also known as alimony) can be ordered in any amount necessary for the support of the recipient. The determination of spousal support depends on whether the spousal support is temporary or permanent. Each type has different criteria for determining the appropriate amount to be paid. Spousal support is determined by a number of factors specifically enumerated within the Family Law Code and expanded upon in case law. Part of what makes the determination of spousal support complicated is not only do you have to know the family codes and cases that pertain to your case, but you also need the experience of appearing in court to have an idea or an understanding of how your local judge may interpret those factors.

Q: What is the difference between temporary and permanent spousal support?

A: 1) Temporary spousal support is typically ordered to maintain the marital living conditions and standards of the parties as close to the status quo as possible pending trial and the division of the parties’ assets and obligations. For these reasons, temporary spousal support tends to be higher than permanent spousal support. It is not uncommon for the judge to look to a DissoMaster support calculation in setting temporary spousal support.

2) Permanent spousal support is typically ordered upon the parties’ divorce and the division of their marital assets and debts. Despite what the name suggests, permanent spousal support can be modified provided that a significant change in circumstances occurs and your Judgment allows for modification. In setting permanent spousal support, the judge is required to review each of the factors listed within Family Code Section 4320. Unlike temporary spousal support, the judge is not permitted to rely solely on the DissoMaster support calculation in setting permanent spousal support.

Q: Can spousal support be modified?

A: It depends. A significant change in life circumstances (e.g., the loss of a job, the emancipation of your child, remarriage, etc.) may warrant a modification in spousal support. However, the ability to modify is dependent on the language of your Judgment. That is why it is critical that you pay close attention to the verbiage used in the drafting process. Our Certified Family Law Specialist can help you determine whether pursuing modification is a viable option for you.

Q: How can I have a say in determining spousal support?

A: 1) Your spousal support amount and duration is within your control as long as you and your spouse agree to it. In mediation through our firm dedicated exclusively to Family Law, you and your spouse can determine a spousal support amount in our private office rather than let a judge decide for you in a crowded courtroom. Mediation allows you to reach a settlement with your spouse that takes into account the complexities of your life.

2) If working with your spouse is out of the question, then litigation may better suit your needs. Through litigation, our Certified Family Law Specialist can help with more complex spousal support matters (e.g., self-employment, underreported income, varied income, refusal to work, etc.) and acquire pertinent information for your case through formal or informal discovery on the opposing party. In litigation through our firm, our Certified Family Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience can defend your position and fight for better results.

Q: What are some of the ways that Michael P. McDeavitt, Esq., CFLS can help me with my spousal support matter?


  • He can sit down with you in our office and run various DissoMaster support calculations and discuss your options with you. He has the same DissoMaster software used in the courts.
  • Drafting and interpreting spousal support agreements
  • Determining if spousal support modification is appropriate for your case
  • Spousal support enforcement
  • Risk assessment
  • Provides 1-on-1 meetings to walk you through the process and discuss your options
  • Reviews the pros and cons of mediation versus litigation for your case
  • Provides insight on factors that may determine your spousal support amount
  • Works with you to determine an appropriate amount in spousal support
  • Informs you of the latest cases and Family Law Codes that may impact your case
  • And more.

Spousal support is more than just a simple Q&A. To understand the full complexity of the facts of your case, your rights, and your options, speak with Michael P. McDeavitt, a Certified Family Law Specialist with over 20 years of experience. Whether you are creating a new spousal support plan or are modifying an existing plan, contact our firm for a free consultation with our Certified Family Law Specialist. We represent clients located in Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon, the Tri-Valley and throughout East Bay.