California Alimony and Spousal Support Laws

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California alimony is governed by California Family Code Section 4320. California courts have discretion in granting alimony amount and length of time.

Types of Spousal Support

  • Temporary – may be available during the divorce proceedings and does not effect the amount of alimony granted in the final disposition.
  • Short-Term – the court will determine the length of alimony payments based on the length of marriage. If the marriage was short (less than five years), the court may grant support for a short length of time.
  • Long-Term or Permanent – marriages lasting ten years or longer are considered lengthy under California law. The court has discretion to grant long-term or permanent support in these cases. California courts do not favor granting support indefinitely.

Who is Eligible for Alimony in California

Individuals who have been married, but are getting divorced may seek spousal support or alimony during the divorce proceedings.

California Alimony Guidelines (Factors for Awarding Alimony)

California courts will consider the following in determining spousal support:

  • Whether the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during marriage, taking into account:
    • Skills of the supported party; job market; time and expenses to acquire education or training to develop those skills; and need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
    • Whether the supported party's earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment incurred during the marriage to devote time to domestic duties.
    • Whether the supported party contributed to an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
    • Ability to pay spousal support, taking into account earning capacity, assets, and standard of living.
    • The needs of each party based on standard of living established during marriage.
    • Obligations and assets, including separate property, of each party.
    • Duration of the marriage.
    • Ability of the supported party to work considering the interests of dependent children.
    • Age and health of the parties.
    • Evidence of any history of domestic violence.
    • Tax consequences to each party.
    • Balance of hardships to each party.
    • Any other factors the court determines to be in the interest of justice.

Reasons for Termination or Modification of Alimony in California

Once the court determines the alimony payment schedule and amount, the only thing that will result in consideration of a modification is change of circumstances. If one or both parties to the support agreement have a sudden shift in income, then the court has discretion to consider a modification.

Marital Fault in California

California was the first state to implement the idea of no-fault divorce. The court does not blame either party for the divorce or punish them, rather they try to determine the best and most fair way to divide the assets.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last in California?

California alimony lasts for however long the court determines. There is a rule of thumb for marriages that last less than ten years that the alimony will last for half as long as the marriage; however, the court may grant it for less or more time depending on the circumstances. Marriages that are longer than ten years are considered long-term.

California Alimony Taxes

Alimony from a former spouse is taxable in the year it is received. Thus, you must claim it as income on your tax return.

Find an Alimony Attorney in California

If you are faced with the prospect of paying or receiving alimony due to divorce, consult a family law attorney.  An attorney will advocate on your behalf, help you understand your rights and help you through the process.

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