California Spousal Support Overview

When you file for legal separation or divorce in California, you may seek spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony, from your spouse. You may also request spousal support when obtaining a domestic violence restraining order. Receiving spousal support allows you to maintain your marital standard of living while going through a divorce or making reasonable efforts to become self-supporting post-divorce. The following is an overview of California spousal support.

Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support may be awarded to you during your divorce, legal separation, or domestic violence proceeding. The court may order your spouse to pay you a monthly sum throughout the duration of your divorce proceeding. The purpose of temporary spousal support is to make sure you remain financially stable during the divorce process.

The court uses a guideline calculated formula to determine the amount of temporary spousal support to be paid. The court will review your spouse’s income in comparison to your income when calculating the amount of spousal support to be paid temporarily. Note, temporary spousal support orders can carry over to the final judgment (permanent order). Consult with an attorney to obtain an offical court approved spousal support calcuation. 

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support may be negotiated as part of your marital settlement agreement or ordered by the court at trial. Permanent spousal support is not determined by using a guideline formula. Instead, the court will consider several factors in deciding whether to award permanent spousal support:

  • The court will consider the length of your marriage;
  • Financial needs based on your established standard of living;
  • The age and health of you and your spouse;
  • The amounts of debts and property you hold;
  • The you or your spouse had in the educational or career development of the other spouse;
  •  Whether you or your spouse stayed out of the workforce to raise children or would need to do so after divorce; and
  •  The tax implications of spousal support.

Review California Family Code section 4320 for a comprehensive list of factors. The amount of money you receive may be lessened if you signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. In addition to obtaining a spousal support order, you may receive additional support if your spouse earns a bonus or is paid on commission. 

The above is a high level summary of spousal support. View our other lessons to learn more in depth information about the topics discussed above.

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