A Guide to Alimony and Spousal Support in California

In California, when a couple decides to divorce after building a lifestyle together, a court may require the higher earner – whether it be the husband or the wife – to assist the lower earner to maintain that lifestyle for at least a period of time. A judge in California may award support during divorce proceedings, (“pendent lite”), as well as support after a divorce is final. Spousal support orders generally direct one spouse to pay the other a specified amount periodically for a predetermined amount of time. Support can also consist of a single lump-sum payment. Sometimes spouses can agree between themselves on terms and conditions of support payments. A court will uphold an agreement as long as it meets legal requirements, even if the agreement provides for a complete waiver of support to a lower-earning spouse.

Duration of California Spousal Support

The duration of spousal support in California is often tied to the duration of the marriage. After a marriage of less than 10 years, a court will not usually order support for longer than half the length of the marriage. If a marriage has lasted 10 years or longer, the court generally won’t set a definite termination date for support at the time of the divorce; both spouses retain right to request modification indefinitely, unless they specifically agree to a termination date, or the court expressly termination at a later hearing. Thus, the duration or termination date becomes an important bargaining point.

Calculation of Alimony

Under California law the purpose of temporary spousal support is to preserve the financial status quo to the greatest extent possible. A court may order temporary spousal support in any amount after considering the needs of the spouse requesting it and the other spouse’s ability to pay. A few factors the courts will take into account:

  • The marketable skills of the supported spouse.
  • The job market for those skills.
  • Any time or expense the supported spouse requires to acquire education or training for employment or enhanced employability.
  • The extent to which periods of unemployment due to domestic duties during the marriage have impaired the supported spouse’s present or future earning capacity.

Long-term support that continues after the Judgment is based on much more complex factors and evidence.

Contact a Santa Rosa Divorce Attorney

If you are in the midst of trying to obtain spousal support, have any questions, or are in need of legal advice or representation please contact Charles D. Stark, Attorney and Counselor at Law.

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