One thing that the court is not allowed to do is use
Guideline Temporary Spousal Support
calculations (formulas set forth by statute) to determine
Permanent Spousal Support [Marriage of Zywiciel (2008) 83 Cal.App.4th 1078, 1082]. Computer software programs like
Dissomaster (http://www.childsupportca.com/dissomaster.htm) or
Xspouse (http://www.xspouse.com/) are designed to make these Temporary Support calculations for you.
Nevertheless, such Guideline calculations are often used behind the scenes
as a measure (of sorts) in determining Permanent Spousal Support, at least
in the course of settlement negotiations and mediation.
It is improper to use guideline Temporary Spousal Support calculations
to determine Permanent Spousal Support because the Family Code specifically
provides another more subjective methodology that considers several factors
to determine Permanent Spousal Support (see “Calculating Permanent
Spousal Support” for a more thorough discussion of these factors).
Also, Temporary Spousal Support guideline formulas tend to be overly generous
to the recipient giving that person a little extra spousal support pending trial.
For better comparison purposes, a couple of different practices (or "rules
of thumb") have become common.
The first rule of thumb is to take the Temporary Spousal Support number,
and reduce it by 20%. This seems a bit arbitrary, but it tends to produce
a calculation that’s more fair.
The second rule of thumb, is known as the "B-Key" analysis. The
actual “b-key” relates to a command used by the Dissomaster program.
After the program makes the calculation for Temporary Spousal Support,
press the letter "B" on the keyboard. The program then makes
an alternative calculation without considering that the payor spouse received
a tax deduction for payment of spousal support. The “B-key”
calculation is therefore a lower amount of spousal support.
If software like Dissomaster is to be used as a comparison for determining
Permanent Spousal Support, the best methodology is perhaps to simply use
the software to determine parties' relative net income after the payment
of child support. One may then consider how much the higher earning spouse
must pay the lower earning spouse to equalize their net incomes, while
also considering each parties' relative cost of living, and the other
mandatory factors set forth in Family Code section 4320 for determining
the amount of Permanent Spousal Support.