California Court OKs Computer Program to Set Temporary Spousal Support Award – In re Marriage of McDowell

When a court considers whether to award spousal support in a California divorce case, it looks at both spouses’ financial situations to determine their need for support and ability to pay it. That often includes detailed information about their income, expenses, and job prospects. In a recent case, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals approved the use of computer software designed to make calculating support awards easier. The court said it was perfectly fine for a judge to rely on a report generated by the software, at least when making a temporary spousal support award.

Husband and Wife had been married for roughly 22 years when Wife filed for divorce in December 2013. She also requested more than $3,000 per month in spousal support, saying that she’d recently lost her job and was unemployed while looking for new work. She was earning just over $1,660 per month in unemployment benefits at the time, while Husband was bringing in more than $8,600 per month.

Wife later filed an amended Dissomaster report, proposing temporary support in the amount of nearly $2,400. Dissomaster is a computer program used to compute child and spousal support based on income, expenses, and other information and in accordance with state guidelines. It produces support estimates in the form of a court order that a judge can then adopt, amend, or disregard. In this case, the trial court adopted the proposal and ordered Husband to pay $2,400 per month in temporary support. According to the Fourth District, that decision came after Husband’s attorney said Husband “agreed with the numbers presented.”

Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District rejected Husband’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion by relying solely on the Dissomaster program to calculate the support award. Although the Court held in 1993 that a trial court can’t use computer software to determine a permanent support award, it said this case concerned only a temporary award designed to cover Wife while she looked for a new job. “Where temporary orders are concerned, California cases have supported the use of computer programs like DissoMaster to assist trial courts in computing support awards,” the Court said. “They promote consistency in the temporary orders issued in a department with a busy domestic relations motion calendar, and are especially valuable in achieving comparable orders under similar financial facts.”

While these computer programs may make things a little easier, they don’t resolve much of the the stress and acrimony associated with traditional divorce. If you’re committed to solving problems rather than arguing over who is to blame and are willing to engage in open, honest, and respectful communication, alternatives like collaborative divorce and mediation may be right for you.

With offices throughout the Bay Area, California divorce lawyer Lorna Jaynes approaches divorce cases as a problem to be solved, not a battle to be won. She handles each case personally, taking the time to understand each individual client’s needs and interests and explaining the various options for resolving these matters. Call us at (510) 795-6304 or contact us online to set up an appointment.

Related blog posts:

Alameda County Divorce Court – Why Divorcing Couples Should Stay Out of Court

Revising Spousal Support Awards in California Divorce Cases – In re Marriage of Gartman

Valuing a Spouse’s Business in California Divorce Cases – Doig v. Doig

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