Understanding Spousal Support

Alimony is spousal support. In California, it is referred to as spousal support rather than alimony. It is payments that one spouse may be ordered by the court to pay the other spouse for support as a result of the divorce. The purpose of spousal support is to ensure economic fairness in divorce

In ordering spousal support, a California court must consider the following circumstances:

  • The earning capacity of each party and whether it is sufficient to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage
  • The employability and marketing skills of the party receiving support
  • The time and expenses required for the supported party to gain the appropriate education or training in order to develop those skills
  • To what degree is the supported party’s earning capacity limited by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to allow the supported party to dedicate time to domestic duties
  • The extent the supported party contributed to the education, training or career position of the supporting party
  • The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support
  • The needs of each party based on the established standard of living
  • The obligations and assets, including the separate property of each party
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and health of both parties
  • Any history of domestic violence between the parties
  • Tax consequences to each party
  • The goal that the supported party will become self-supporting in a reasonable period of time

Courts in California may order spousal support payments for a reasonable period of time. A “reasonable period of time” generally means one-half the length of the marriage. However, it is in the courts discretion to order support for a greater or lesser time period, based on any of the factors listed above. Marriages lasting 10 years or more are considered marriages of long duration. In those circumstances, the court may revisit issues of spousal support indefinitely. This does not mean that a spouse is entitled to spousal support indefinitely, or that a court must order support indefinitely to a marriage lasting longer than 10 years.