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California Spousal Support or Alimony Law

In California, monthly alimony or "spousal support" may be ordered by the court or agreed upon by the spouses as part of their settlement agreement to be paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to alleviate any unfair economic burdens that may befall the lower-wage-earning spouse or the non-wage-earning spouse after a divorce takes place. Alimony awards can vary greatly in amount and length of time for which it must be paid. The basics of California spousal support (or alimony) laws are discussed in this article. FindLaw also provides state-specific links to alimony court forms and instructions.

Factors in Spousal Support Rulings

In California, various factors are taken into consideration when determining an alimony order:

  1. Age, physical condition, and financial condition of the spouses;
  2. The spouses' earning abilities;
  3. The standard of living during marriage (i.e. if the payee spouse was used to a very high standard of living during marriage, the court may order more alimony to be paid than if the payee spouse was used to a very low standard of living);
  4. The length of the marriage; and
  5. The ability of the payer spouse to support himself/herself

Types of Alimony

There are various types of alimony and depending on the purpose for which it is being ordered, the terms may vary. The following are types of alimony that can be ordered:

  1. Temporary alimony: Alimony paid from one spouse to another when the parties are separated but the divorce is not finalized;
  2. Rehabilitative alimony: Alimony paid only until the payee spouse has been able to become self-supporting;
  3. Permanent alimony: Continues indefinitely (or until the death or remarriage of the payee spouse);
  4. Reimbursement alimony: Intended to reimburse one spouse for the expenses of the other (i.e. if the payee spouse needs to attend a training program, the payer spouse may be ordered to pay for tuition, etc.);
  5. Lump-sum alimony: This type of alimony is usually ordered in lieu of a property settlement. It does not take into account if the payee spouse remarries or lives with someone.

See Are You Entitled to Alimony (Spousal Support)? to find out if you're eligible.

Enforcing Spousal Support

Alimony is a more difficult type of support to enforce. Unlike child support, where non-payment can result in the wage garnishing, liens and other such enforcement measures to ensure that the support is paid, spousal support can be enforced if the payee spouse takes the payer spouse to court in a contempt proceeding. This of course, requires an additional step and expense of the spouse receiving payments. Alimony payments will cease on the recipient spouse's remarriage or death. Otherwise, depending on the type of alimony and the ordered or agreed upon term of payment, the payer spouse is obligated to continue to make monthly payments.

Consider speaking with a California divorce lawyer if you have questions about California spousal support or alimony laws.

California Support or Alimony Laws: Statute

California Family Code Sections 4330-4339

Related Resources

Next Steps
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