What Happens If I Don’t Pay Spousal Support in Marin County?


Spousal support can often feel like a lose-lose situation. The recipient spouse often feels the Court orders a fraction of what they need and deserve to survive. The payor spouse often feels they can’t meet their own needs after cutting a support check. But what is spousal support?  In California, a judge can order one spouse to pay the other an amount of money to cover the recipient spouse’s expenses. If parties are married, this payment is called “spousal support” or “alimony”. If the parties are domestic partners, this payment is called “domestic partner support.”

There are two types of spousal support

The first type of spousal support in called “temporary spousal support”. Temporary spousal support is an order for payments to a spouse before your case is resolved with a judgment of dissolution. Either party may ask for a temporary support order as soon as the case is filed.

The second type of spousal support is called “long-term spousal support”. Long-term spousal support refers to support orders made at the end of the case. These are also called permanent support orders.

How long does spousal support last?

In Marin County, the Courts will refer to case law which provides, in sum, that the longer you were married, the longer support can last. For marriages shorter than 10 years, the presumption is that spousal support will last half the length of the marriage. For marriages of 10 years or longer, spousal support may last for as long as one spouse has a need for support and the other has the ability to pay.

In some cases, a spouse can pay spousal support even after retirement. If the retired spouse still has income in any form, including pension, retirement, rental, dividend income, he or she is still exposed to paying spousal support.

Marin Divorce lawyer spousal support

Does the Court use a ‘Dissomaster’ computer program to determine spousal support?

San Francisco Bay Area judges will often use a Dissomaster to determine temporary spousal support. DissoMaster is approved by the Judicial Council for use in all California courts. DissoMaster is a software program used by California family law attorneys to compute guideline child support and spousal support in divorce or legal separation cases. 

By and large, courts must follow the guideline child support amount calculated by DissoMaster. The courts are not bound by the spousal support (alimony)
amounts generated by DissoMaster. However, the Dissomaster can be very helpful for determining temporary spousal support, but the Court may order a different number.

The court is not allowed to use the Dissomaster in calculating permanent support. In re Marriage of Olson (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 1. A permanent spousal support order based on the Dissomaster was reversed because of the failure to consider all 4320 factors.

What are the Family Code sec. 4320 factors?

Those factors include:

  • The marital standard of living
  • The skills of the person receiving the support, the job market for a person with those skills, and what further time and expense is needed to further develop those skills to make themselves more marketable
  • How were the supported parties skills impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to devote time to domestic duties
  • Whether or not the supported person contributed to the supporting parties attainment of an education, training or a career
  • The ability of the supporting party to pay
  • The needs of the party receiving the support to live up to the marital standard
  • The separate property of both parties
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The ability of the supported person to engage in gainful employment without it being detrimental to dependent children in their custody
  • The age and health of the parties
  • Documented domestic violence in the relationship or criminal convictions for the same
  • Tax implications
  • Hardships to both parties
  • The goal that the supported party shall become self supporting after a reasonable time for short term marriages
  • Any other relevant factors.

A skilled attorney can argue that temporary or permanent support orders should be raised or lowered depending on the situation. Marissa Major and Hillary Warren have established themselves as experts at this process and will fight to get you the best results. 

How can you spousal support end?

Spousal support can end when any of the following occurs:                       

            1) You and your spouse agree on the termination date of support and the court signs off on the agreement.

            2) You die.

            3) Your spouse dies.

            4) The spouse receiving support remarries.

            5) The Court orders that spousal support is terminated on a certain date.

Does the court discriminate based on gender in awarding spousal support?

The family law judges in Marin, California are not allowed to discriminate based on gender for any issue in a divorce, including spousal support. US federal law and California law provides that gender bias is to be avoided. That said, even the law and training often cannot prevent bias. Consult a marin county family law attorney that knows the judge’s tendencies with respect to ordering spousal support before litigating a case.

What Happens if I Cannot Pay Court-Ordered Spousal Support?

In an order for spousal support, the judge will indicate a date for payments to start. The payor spouse must pay beginning support on that date. If spousal support is not paid, it accrues interest. The legal interest rate for unpaid support is 10% per year.


            Kate is ordered to pay John $2,000 per month in spousal support. She misses one payment but does not pay it for a year. After a year, Kate owes $2,200 in spousal support          arrears to John including interest.

Often a the recipient spouse does not wait a year prior to filing a motion to collect overdue spousal support. If a spousal support payment is missed, the recipient spouse can pursue contempt charges or file a motion to enforce the court order to collect payment. The delinquent payor spouse may have their driver’s license suspended, among other things.

Why should I care about alimony?

Spousal support can be the biggest financial obligation you will face as part of a divorce. Without proper legal counsel, spousal support can last decades and cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you pay $2,000 per month over a 20-year period, that amounts to $480,000 in spousal support payments. Even reducing that amount by $200 per month saves $48,000 over 20 years.

Although no Marin County divorce attorney can guarantee a particular result with a court, temporary and long-term spousal support can often be resolved out of court. In fact, resolving many of your divorce issues out of court often saves a significant amount of money and has other benefits. However, if you need to litigate spousal support, it is vital to hire excellent litigators who know the judges and the law.

What should I do if I am Owed Spousal Support?

If you are owed spousal support and your ex-spouse is not paying, consult a Marin County family law attorney. Similarly, if you owe spousal support arrears to your ex-spouse, consult a local Marin County divorce lawyer.

Disclaimer: Warren Major LLP’s blog articles on its website for informational purposes only. The information contained herein may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Warren Major LLP or the individual author. This general information is not a substitute for legal advice on any subject matter. For advice pertaining to your specific case, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. No reader of this article should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this article without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction. Using this information or sending electronic mail to Warren Major LLP or its attorneys does not create an attorney-client relationship. Any statements pertaining to past results do not guarantee future results.

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