When is Spousal Support or Alimony Awarded Pursuant to Divorce in California?

Spousal support, or alimony, is not automatically granted to either party in a California divorce. Instead, judges have broad discretion in deciding whether to grant financial support to either spouse, what that amount should be, and for how long payments should be made.

Judges base their decisions on a review of 14 statutory factors contained in California Family Code sections 4320. The factors include the extent to which the parties’ earning capacities are sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, contributions each spouse made to the other’s education or training, the supporting spouse’s ability to pay, the duration of the marriage, the effect the custodial spouse having to work would have on the children of the marriage, and the age and health of the parties, among other considerations.

Any spousal support order made in California also is made with “the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.” Courts have ruled that with the exception of long-duration marriages, a “reasonable period of time” during which the supported party should become able to financially support themselves is generally one-half the length of the marriage.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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