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How Do California Courts Determine Alimony?

Alimony, also called spousal support in California, is payment from one party to the other, either during or after a divorce. Temporary spousal support is paid to a lower-earning spouse by the spouse who earns more, while a divorce is pending. Permanent (more appropriately called "long-term") spousal support is awarded when a divorce is final, with the intention that it will restore the receiving (payee) spouse to a financial standard of living close to the one established during the marriage. 

As with many aspects of your divorce, you and your spouse may agree on alimony. If you cannot reach agreement, the court will decide whether to award spousal support, how much, and for how long. Factors that courts in San Diego and other California counties must consider include:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the age and health of the spouses
  • the marketable skills of the payee spouse, or how long it would take him or her to obtain marketable skills
  • the extent to which the payee spouse contributed to the payor spouse’s attainement of an education, training, career, or license
  • the extent to which the payee spouse's future ability to secure employment is likely to be affected by periods of unemployment during the marriage to attend to domestic obligations
  • each spouse's assets and debts
  • whether the payee spouse could work outside the home without excessive disruption to the care of dependent children in his or her care
  • each spouse's financial needs, based on the standard of living established during the marriage
  • tax consequences of an alimony award to each party
  • the payor spouse's ability to pay
  • the balance of the hardships to each party.

The court may also factor in any other information it deems just and equitable to consider.

Spousal support is one of the most frequently litigated issues in family court.  The judge has great discretion to award support, and how the relevant factors are presented to the court can make a significant difference in the orders that are made.  Our firm has extensive experience litigating and negotiating spousal support for our clients on both sides of this issue.  It is imperative that your attorney understands the dynamics within your particular matter to be able to fully present all relevant factors on this highly-debated issue.  As always, our goal is to reach an agreement without the necessity of litigation.  However, if that is not possible, we are ready to argue the matter before the court to ensure that your position and supporting facts are skillfully presented.

San Diego Bar AssociationSection of Family LawCalifornia State Bar Family Law American Bar Association Avvo Clients' Choice 2014