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California Alimony
Spousal Support

California alimony, also commonly called spousal support, may be awarded to either party. A California court may award alimony in any amount and for any period of time that it deems just and reasonable based on the standard of living during the marriage.

California courts can award spousal support in any divorce, though it is not mandatory in any situation. Either party, immediately upon a divorce or temporary restraining order, can seek alimony. California couples can also agree to marital support orders and ask a judge to recognize the agreement in the form of a court order.

In California, child support takes priority over alimony. Alimony is considered only after the children have been accommodated.

The distribution of martial property can become intricately involved in the award of support. According to Family Law Code Section 4320, California alimony is based on actual income. If someone reduces his or her income voluntarily (say a skilled brain surgeon goes to work as a street musician) alimony can be imputed on that spouse's ability to earn. Occasional overtime and bonuses can be included in earnings if likely to continue, but excessive overtime is excluded. California courts can terminate alimony if the recipient does not make a good faith effort to become self-supporting.

According to California law in the Family Code Section 4323 for spousal support, income or expenses of a payor's new mate cannot be included in the computation of alimony, but if the recipient has a live-in mate, it can be presumed there is decreased need for support, at least to the extent expenses are reduced.

In California, every alimony order must be paid by wage assignment. Once the order is served on the payor's employer, all or part of the support payments will automatically be deducted. The wage assignment can be stayed by court order, but not easily. However, it is entirely up to the recipient when the wage assignment order is actually served on the employer. This means that the parties can agree that the order will not be served on the payor's employer so long as payments are current.

The court modifies alimony only after one party experiences a change of circumstances, usually either a decrease in the income of the payor, such as the loss of a job, or the recipient becomes self-supporting or remarries.

Alimony can be awarded at any time during a divorce proceeding. For example, a court can order temporary alimony payments during the course of a lengthy divorce to ensure the parties live adequately and meet the financial needs of both spouses. Courts can also award alimony that applies after the divorce judgment, meaning the paying party makes payments to the spouse after he or she is no longer married.

Types of Alimony

Alimony, its amount, and its duration are decided by the judgment of the court.

Factors Considered by the Court

In California courts have wide discretion when deciding to award spousal support. Though courts must take into account specific factors, the decision to award alimony, and the amount awarded, is solely within the court's discretion. Alimony can be paid from either spouse to the other regardless of sex.

According to the California Code - Sections: 4320, 4324, 4330, In awarding alimony the court considers:

  • whether the spouse seeking support is the custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate for that spouse not to seek outside employment;
  • the time necessary to acquire sufficient education and training to enable the spouse to find appropriate employment, and that spouse's future earning capacity;
  • the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • the duration of the marriage;
  • the comparative financial resources of the spouses, including their comparative earning abilities in the labor market;
  • the needs and obligations of each spouse;
  • the contribution of each spouse to the marriage, including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other spouse;
  • the age and health of the spouses;
  • the physical and emotional conditions of the spouses;
  • the tax consequences to each spouse;
  • the ability of the supporting spouse to pay, taking into account that spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living;
  • the balance of hardships to each party; and
  • any other factor the court deems just and equitable.

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