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How is Spousal Support Determined in California?

Although not every divorce will grant spousal support payments, many do. If you are looking to receive spousal support, or your spouse has requested that you make payments, it is important that you understand how California law determines spousal support.

About Spousal Support

Spousal support, also called spousal maintenance or alimony, is a way to even the financial playing field, so to speak. These payments are meant to help sustain the spouse with a lower income, providing him or her with the same standard of living he or she enjoyed during the marriage. These payments vary greatly in amount and duration. For example, a long-term marriage may warrant a more long-term spousal support payment plan.

Also, these payments can change when the financial situation of the receiving spouse alters. For example, if the receiving spouse remarries, payments are no longer necessary. In any case, California courts usually expect the receiving spouse to make an effort to earn a living for him or herself.

Factors That Affect Spousal Support

In California, the court will consider several factors about the marriage and each spouse before determining fair alimony payments. These factors include:

  • The age of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity and education
  • Each spouse’s role during the marriage, including their respective contributions
  • The income of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s assets and separate property
  • The physical and mental health of each spouse
  • The needs of each party in relation to standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Any history of domestic violence related to either spouse

California is a no-fault state, which means the reason for the divorce does not affect the division of property or spousal support payments. However, in cases of extremely serious or damaging domestic violence, the court may award support to the abused spouse. Other marital factors, such as cheating, will not impact alimony payments.

Modifications to Spousal Support

Even after spousal support payments have been established by the court, it is possible to modify court orders. Modifications are only possible under certain circumstances, but they may be granted when the financial situation of either spouse changes. Reasons for alimony modifications often include the remarriage of the recipient, an income change for the payer, a change in the recipient’s income, a disability affecting either party, or other serious changes.

To get started, contact Singleton Smith Law Offices, Inc. to discuss your divorce case with our Murrieta family law attorneys.