For the basics of spousal support, please refer to this article on our website: https://cristinlowelaw.com/spousal-support-basics-what-you-need-to-know/
My answers assume you’re familiar with the basics outlined in the article.
Temporary Spousal Support
For a temporary spousal support order calculation, since it’s based on a formula, there should be a right and a wrong answer. Think of temporary support calculations like TurboTax. If you enter your income incorrectly into the program, the calculations for your tax obligations will likewise be incorrect. The data drives the results. Therefore, the answer to “who’s right” depends on who entered in the data correctly into the support program. You will need to review every entry into the program and compare and contrast the two support calculations to determine who is right and who is wrong. It’s likely that both of you had some errors in your figures.
For detailed information on the various inputs for a support program, you can review this article on our website (while it’s labeled as child support, for TEMPORARY spousal support, the same program is used, so you will find value in understanding how the program works): https://cristinlowelaw.com/california-child-support-in-ten-steps/
The program requires you to enter GROSS (pre-tax) income - the program takes out the taxes as part of its calculations. For temporary spousal support, it is usually based on current income.
For bonus/overtime support, review this article:
Permanent Spousal Support
Permanent spousal support is NOT formula driven and therefore, support program calculators can only be used as tools for negotiation purposes. This is where an analysis of the marital standard of living applies, which is not a clear cut standard. For example, a venture capitalist will have wide fluctuations in income, ranging from virtually nothing in one year to potentially millions in another year. For that situation, it is unrealistic to base marital standard of living on one year, as opposed to looking at many years of income. For some firefighters in California, looking at the last 2 years of income would create a false/artificially high income, as it is unlikely they could continue to replicate that level of overtime in future years as a general standard. In short, it depends on the entire situation.
Going to Court
The key factor to remember in dealing with the issue of spousal support in court is that temporary spousal support is pretty cut and dry, unlike permanent spousal support. You should be able to get a fairly clear idea of the correct amount, and if no agreement can be reached along those lines, then going to Court will get you the appropriate guideline amount. Many reasonable people can figure out a way to get to a temporary support number that is accurate. That is NOT the same as reaching an agreement on permanent spousal support, which is often times lower than temporary spousal support. In your particular situation, where you’ve been separated for a substantial amount of time, the attorney may be trying to get you to a permanent support agreement.