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
Temporary spousal support may be ordered while your case is pending. For temporary spousal support, judges in many local courts generally use a formula to calculate the amount. Courts in different counties may use slightly different factors in calculating temporary support. Your court’s local rules should explain how temporary support is calculated in your county. You can find your local county rules here.
Support can also be ordered once the divorce becomes final, as part of the final divorce or separation judgment. This is sometimes known as permanent (or long-term) spousal support. For this, the judge will not use a formula to figure out how much spousal support to order, but instead will look to a set of factors. The factors the judge will consider are the following:
- The length of the marriage or domestic partnership.
- What each person needs based on the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership.
- What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity) to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage or domestic partnership.
- Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the children;
- The age and health of both people.
- Debts and property.
- Whether 1 spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license.
- Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership.
- Whether 1 spouse’s, or domestic partner’s, career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home.
- The tax impact of spousal support (note: federal and state tax laws have not been changed to recognize domestic partnerships).
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.