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Determining Spousal Support or Alimony in a Divorce

If you are beginning the process of a divorce, you are understandably facing a wide range of emotions while having many legal questions. It is important to understand the laws applying to spousal support when you’re entering divorce proceedings, in order to fully cooperate and be prepared.

Below, we will discuss the basics of spousal support, alimony and the preparation steps to take in order to reach a fair agreement. If you have any further questions or inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact our office today to set up a meeting with our experienced and trusted attorneys.

What is alimony?

Alimony is payment that a family court may order one spouse to make to the other spouse when that couple separates or divorces. The purpose of alimony is to avoid any unfair economic or financial consequences of a divorce, after property is divided. Alimony, in the state of California, is interchangeably referred to as spousal support.

What is spousal support?

Spousal support is the law term used for payments from one spouse to another after a divorce. The purpose of this is for the receiving spouse to be able to maintain the same standard of living as during their marriage.

How is spousal support/ alimony determined?

  • Spousal support is determined by a variety of factors and circumstances. The court will make this decision based on the following to the extent of:

  • The financial earning capacity of each spouse sufficient to maintain the same standard of living.

  • The contribution to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting spouse to the supported spouse.

  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay spousal support, taking into consideration of the supporting spouse’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

  • The needs of each spouse based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

  • The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each spouse.

  • The duration of the marriage.

  • The ability of the supported spouse to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the couple.

  • The age and health of each spouse.

  • Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence between the couple.

  • The immediate and specific tax consequences to each spouse.

  • The balance of the hardships to each party.

  • The goal that the supported spouse shall be financially self-supporting and sufficient within a reasonable period of time.

  • The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award.

  • Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

What is the duration of spousal support or alimony?

For most cases, spousal support will be ordered and granted for half the length of a marriage that was less than 10 years long. For example, if a couple was married for 8 years, then the spousal support will last for 4 years. For marriages longer than 10 years, the court will not set a distinctive duration for spousal support. For it to end, one spouse will be financially responsible to prove that spousal support is no longer necessary at some future point in time. All in all, the duration of spousal support is left to the discretion of the court of law based on common law principles and guidelines.

How should an individual prepare in order to reach a fair agreement?

An individual should identify the relevant facts and details that should be emphasized to the court in your favor. This could include the payor spouse’s ability to pay and the recipient spouse’s potential income and needs in order to maintain the same standard of living. Having income tax returns, W-2 forms and pay stubs are important to establish income and the ability to pay spousal support. It may be necessary to hire an accountant to prepare a formal analysis of each spouses’ cash flow and disposable income. Additionally, it is recommended for each spouse to prepare a monthly budget and expense list for the court to examine since they are allowed complete discretion of the duration and amount of spousal support.

If you would like more information on determining spousal support or alimony in a divorce, please contact our office today at or (530) 217-3520.

This blog and the website is made available by both the lawyer or law firm publisher is for educational purposes and only to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog and/or website you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the publisher of the blog and/or website. The blog and/or website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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