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Permanent Support Orders

Realistically, this is your one chance to make a difference in setting the amount you will have to live with for a long, long time. Consider any temporary support order as a starting point only for the purpose of motivating you to improve upon it.

Prepare in exhaustive detail to argue for a permanent support order that you can live with. Do not falter in gathering facts that support your position. Document your expenses, your spouse’s expenses and the children’s expenses. Document your income and your spouse’s income, both actual, and what your spouse could be earning if you have facts to show that he or she should be earning more. Be prepared to demonstrate in what way your assets and liabilities affect the needs and abilities to pay.

Courts will again use the federally mandated child support schedules to set the amount of “permanent” child support. This order will be set forth in your judgment, after trial or settlement, and remain in force for as long as stated. Child support orders are always modifiable subject to certain rules such as the need to show a “change of circumstances” to prevent frivolous and frequent returns to court.

The court’s temporary spousal support schedule is usually discretionary and often not to be considered at all when calculating permanent spousal support. In reality, everyone is either aware of the guideline spousal support or tempted to look at the schedule: if this figure is unfavorable to you and the law in your state says it should not be considered, take steps to keep it from the court’s eyes. [For example: Refer the court to legal authority in advance of the permanent support hearing and request that (1) specified references in the court file itself such as the existing temporary spousal support order be “blacked out,” (2) no reference by made by the court to the temporary spousal support schedule in its consideration of your case and (3) evidence of the temporary spousal support schedule is inadmissible in setting permanent spousal support.]

As always, facts are the basis for a valid court order. If the court insists on using a temporary spousal support order as a starting point, be ready to objectively show how and why the old temporary order must be changed—based on the additional evidence not considered in a schedule based only, usually, on short-term income and expense estimates.

Do not willingly accept a support order that you cannot live with—do not expect that you’ll be back in court to straighten this out in no time. Do not “count on” going back to court to change the “permanent” support order in your case. Ever. Many former spouses return to court to “modify” support but most don’t, largely based on dissatisfaction with the cost and the result.