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Understand spousal support in California

Alimony is something that many people know they don't want to have to pay. Some people may even fight against receiving it. After all, receiving or paying alimony means that you have to stay in touch with the other party, even after your divorce is final.

In most cases, the person with more money is the one who writes a check for alimony, though assets and liabilities may be taken into consideration when determining who has enough to pay or who has little enough to receive alimony fairly.

What does a judge have to consider when determining alimony?

The judge has to look at many factors that affect your case including:

  • The length of your marriage
  • The marketable skills of either spouse
  • The earning capacity of either spouse
  • The time needed to get an education or training that could help the lesser-earning spouse
  • Each person's current state of health
  • Debts
  • Property
  • How each person's career was affected by marriage

After looking at these factors and others, the judge will determine if alimony should be factored into the divorce. If so, then the support order will become part of the legal separation judgment or final divorce judgment.

Once support is ordered, can it be changed?

Yes, which is something to be aware of. If the person paying support or the person receiving it has a major change in circumstances, then the amount being paid may change. It will not increase in most instances, only decrease overall.

Here's an example. If you are paying support to an ex-spouse and they get engaged, you may wish to approach the court about ending spousal support. If they are living with another person or get married, then the likelihood is that you may no longer need to pay support.

A major change in circumstances is the only way to have your support order changed, and you must petition the court to do so. Additionally, you will need to continue paying the full amount of support (and you should continue to receive support if you are receiving it), until the support order is officially changed in court. Those paying should not stop paying for any reason without an approval from the judge overseeing the case. Doing so could be a violation of the support order and will lead to an unpaid balance.

Spousal support is an important boost to a lesser earning spouse's income, and it can be established early on in your divorce case.

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