An Introduction to Child and Spousal Support

Income is always the primary factor used in calculating the amount of support capable of being paid, and thus needed as an extension of the marital lifestyle. Directly calculating the support needed has become nearly obsolete, particularly for temporary support orders. This focus on the ability to pay reflects the reality that most families spend their entire income to maintain a single, intact family unit; upon separation, there simply is not enough money to fully support two households at the standard of living previously enjoyed.

This chapter will discuss and analyze court-approved and court-ordered child and spousal support that emphasizes income while adding considerations of need, the major source of adjustments, and detailing the types of potential adjustments available. Support is one of the most difficult and complex issues you will face. This is the longest chapter because there is so much to consider—and it is all so important.

The following topics will be developed in the sections of this chapter.

Temporary and Permanent Support

First, understand the different concepts behind temporary and permanent orders, whether child support or spousal support, and the ways in which they are calculated.

Support Schedules

Second, take a closer look at the support schedules that dominate when setting temporary support.


Third, you’ll scrutinize available income, the ability to pay support, in far greater detail when setting permanent support.

Fourth, learn how the court solves the problem when your spouse—who should be paying support—is not working, isn’t looking for work and isn’t trying.


Fifth, see the court’s similar approach when the support recipient isn’t working, but could be earning something.

Sixth, we’ll realistically assess the actual need for support.

Spousal Support

Seventh, examine the factors that are most significant in determining whether any spousal support will be ordered, for long and in what amount.

Eighth, learn the over-riding importance of the length of the marriage when considering spousal support.

Ninth, look at several approaches to negotiating the duration, the number of years for which spousal support will be ordered.

Tenth, find that courts may not do much to define the duration of spousal support—and why that is.

Eleventh, consider rehabilitative support in your case, no matter what the length of your marriage.

Twelfth, wrap up the discussion with a few final comments on spousal support.

Child Support

Thirteenth, our search will find very little room for bargaining when setting child support. That’s the only reason for leaving this for last.