Child support and spousal support have features in common, but there are important distinctions. They have significantly different tax consequences for the parties, and they differ in the way the court approaches each type of support.
As in spousal support, parents can agree on child support, but, in the absence of an agreement, the court makes the decision. The two forms of support diverge, however, when it comes time for the court to determine appropriate levels of support.
For temporary spousal support, granted while the case is ongoing, the court applies a formula in accordance with local court rules. In San Mateo County, the temporary spousal support formula is computed by taking 40% of the payor’s net income minus 50% of the payee’s net income, adjusted for tax consequences. When the case ends and the judge enters an order for “permanent” support, the court is charged with considering a litany of factors set forth in Section 4320 of the California Family Code.