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Spousal Support in California Divorce: An Overview

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2023 | Family Law

When couples part ways in California, not only do they need to consider the distribution of assets and child-related matters, but spousal support – often referred to as alimony – is also a significant aspect to be deliberated upon. This article provides a comprehensive overview of spousal support in California divorces.

1. What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is a financial assistance that one spouse might be ordered to pay the other after a divorce or legal separation. Its purpose is to mitigate any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a lower-wage-earning or non-wage-earning spouse.

2. Temporary vs. Permanent Support

  • Temporary Support: Ordered when the spouses are separated but the divorce is not yet final. This helps in maintaining the financial status quo during the divorce proceedings.
  • Permanent Support: Given after the divorce has been finalized. However, “permanent” can be misleading, as this usually does not mean the support will last indefinitely.

3. Factors Considered in Determining Spousal Support

California courts take into account several factors when determining the amount and duration of spousal support, including:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The needs of each spouse.
  • The age and health of both spouses.
  • The standard of living established during the marriage.
  • The supporting spouse’s ability to pay.
  • The supported spouse’s ability to become self-supporting.
  • The assets and debts of each party.
  • Any history of domestic violence or abuse.

4. Modifying Spousal Support

Spousal support can be modified if there is a “change in circumstances.” This could be a significant change in the income of either spouse, or the recipient spouse getting remarried.

5. Duration of Spousal Support

In California, for marriages that lasted less than ten years, spousal support is typically given for half the length of the marriage. For marriages that lasted more than ten years, the court doesn’t set a definitive end date, but the recipient is expected to make efforts to become self-supporting.

6. Ending Spousal Support

Spousal support ends if:

  • The court order has a termination date.
  • The recipient spouse remarries.
  • Either spouse dies.
  • The recipient attains a cohabitating relationship, in some cases.


Understanding spousal support in California is crucial for anyone going through a divorce. Both parties should be well-informed and consider seeking legal advice to ensure that they are making informed decisions during the divorce proceedings.