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Q. What is permanent spousal support or long-term support?

A. Permanent spousal support is payment from one spouse to the supported spouse.

Temporary alimony is paid to the supported spouse during the divorce. Permanent alimony is granted in order to place the supported spouse at or near the same financial standard of living established during the marriage after the divorce. The criterion is known as Marital Standard of Living or MSOL for short.

MSOL is very complicated and complex criteria and requires a deep analysis of party’s incomes (mostly determined by tax returns), various life factors (vacations taken, etc.), debt load and other life situations.

However, the martial standard of living is the base reference point from which the court analyzes the California Family Code 4320 in determining the amount and duration of spousal support.

Family Code section 4320 outlines several factors and some of them are listed below:

i) the marketable skills of the supported spouse; the job market for those skills; the time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire more marketable skills or employment
ii) the extent to which the supported spouse’s earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to permit the supported spouse to devote time to domestic duties
iii) the extent to which the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s attainment of an education, training, career, or license
iv) the paying spouse’s ability  to pay alimony (taking into account the paying spouse’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living)
v) both spouses’ financial needs based on the marital standard of living
vi) both spouses’ obligations (debts) and assets, including separate property
vii) the length of the marriage
viii) the supported spouse’s ability to work outside the home without excessively interfering with the interests of any dependent children in his or her custody
ix) the age and health of the spouses

Despite the suggestion of the word “permanent,” permanent support does not last permanently. Typically, the support amount is put in place until the other party becomes self-supporting. In short-term marriages (less than ten years), it usually lasts half of the time of the length of the marriage. In long-term marriages (presumably over ten years), it can last much longer.

The marital settlement agreement terms on permanent support dictate how long the support would last and whether it can be modified or not. Needless to say, one needs an experienced attorney and team of other professionals to help a party make a decision. So make sure to work with such experienced professionals.

Madan Ahluwalia, Esq is a California lawyer, based on San Jose, CA. His website is