Like other states, spousal support (alimony) in California is not automatic in a divorce. If a lower-earning or dependent spouses asks for spousal support and their husband or wife does not easily agree, a judge will have to decide for the couple.
Before awarding spousal support, a family court judge will examine a number of relevant factors, such as:
- The length of the marriage.
- The age and health of each spouse.
- Each spouse’s income, assets and debts.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity.
- If having a job would make it hard for the dependent spouse to care for the couple’s children.
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- If one of the spouses helped the other obtain an education, a college degree, a professional license, or a career.
- If the dependent spouse’s career was affected by taking care of the couple’s children or their home.
Generally, if a judge decides to award spousal support it will be for one-half the length of the marriage. For example, if the marriage lasted eight years, the judge may award spousal support for four years. However, this is not absolute. California judges have the authority to make a different decision based on the couple’s individual circumstances.
Ending Spousal Support
In California, spousal support usually ends under one of the following circumstances:
- A court order says it will end on a specific date.
- One of the former spouses dies.
- The receiving spouse remarries.
- The receiving spouse registers as a domestic partner.
“Can spousal support be changed for any reason?” Yes, it is possible for spousal support to be changed so it’s more or less. If either former spouse wants to change the amount of spousal support, they can ask the court for a downward or an upward modification. But for someone to request a modification, there must have been a “change” in circumstances.
Reasons for a modification:
- The paying spouse experiences a drop in income.
- The receiving spouse starts earning significantly more money.
- The receiving spouse is not making a good faith effort to support themselves.
To get more information about spousal support, contact our firm to meet with an Orange County divorce lawyer.