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Temporary Spousal Support: Need Versus Ability to Pay

Guiding You Through Difficult Times

One of the most common issues regarding a family law order to show cause is temporary spousal support.  Any motion involving temporary spousal support would begin with Family Code §3600.  This section provides that the court may order a party to “pay any amount that is necessary for the support of the wife or husband.”  This has been interpreted by the courts to be the maintaining of the status quo, subject to the general criterion of “Need” and “Ability to Pay.”  In re Marriage of Schulze (1997) 60 Cal.App.4th519, 70 C.Rptr.2d 488.

The reality is that in family law, “Need” and “Ability to Pay” are at opposite ends of the same spectrum.  “Ability to Pay” applies to the income of the high earner in the relationship, while “Need” is the income of the low earner.

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