Heath-Newton LLP Counselors at Law

Bay Area Family Law Blog


The Top 5 California Alimony FAQs

Top 5 California Alimony FAQS

Most people, who are contemplating divorce in California, are worried about alimony (which is actually called “spousal support” in California).  Our California family law attorneys often hear questions like these:

Will I have enough money to pay the bills and live on my own?  How much of my paycheck will go to my ex-spouse?

We understand that divorce and alimony are highly stressful subjects and that you’ll feel better once you have solid answers.  To that end, we’ve written this article to help you.

Here are the top 5 California alimony questions asked by people like you:

1.      How is Alimony Calculated in California?

During the first stages of the divorce process, a formula is typically used.  The most common formula is:  40% of the higher earning spouse’s income minus 50% of the lower earning spouse’s income = spousal support (California alimony). There are other issues that can increase or decrease the amount of support such as the payment of mortgage interest, health insurance costs, and property taxes.

Once the initial stages of the divorce are complete, the Courts stop using the formula and instead apply their discretion to California family law on the issue (California Family Code Section 4320). Under this code provision, the Court will examine a variety of factors including the marital standard of living, earning capacity of both parties, education, duration of the marriage, age and health of the spouses, periods of unemployment, and so forth. In looking at support on a long-term basis, the Court has greater discretion as to the amount ordered in light of the circumstances of the parties.

2.      How Long Does Alimony Last in California?

In California, a marriage of 10 years or more is considered a “long-term marriage” which carries importance in determining the length of the court’s jurisdiction to award spousal support. In such cases, the Court has the discretion to award spousal support for a fixed period of time, with a conditional termination date or an indefinite period of time, subject to modification.

A marriage of less than 10 years is typically considered a marriage of “short duration.” In such marriages, a standard period of spousal support is one-half the length of the marriage. For example, if you are married six years, support would be paid for three years.

Of course, duration is discretionary to the Court and can generally be modified upon a change of circumstances such as remarriage, unemployment, salary increases, etc.

3.      Can California Alimony be Modified?

Absolutely.  If circumstances change for either spouse, California alimony can be modified unless you agreed to non-modifiable support in your marital settlement agreement.

For example, if you are paying alimony and you lose your job, you have the right to ask to have your spousal support adjusted to reflect current circumstances.

On the other hand, if you are the receiving spouse and your ex-spouse has a significant increase in income, you may be entitled to higher alimony payments.

4.      Does Alimony End if My Spouse Gets Remarried or Cohabitates?

Although everything is always negotiable, most marital settlement agreements or court orders mandate that alimony responsibility ends upon death of either party or the remarriage of the receiving spouse.

Whether cohabitation will end alimony depends on the agreement you’ve negotiated.  That said, cohabitation could serve as a basis to argue that the receiving spouse has a reduced need if their current partner is helping support them.  This argument is rarely effective , however, and you should not rely on it.

5.      Can Alimony Be Paid in a Lump Sum, Instead of Monthly?

Yes.  Sometimes people just want to make a clean break or they anticipate higher future earnings – in those cases a lump sum can make sense. If a lump sum is paid, the amount due may be discounted based on a reasonable interest rate – to be agreed upon by both spouses – or as ordered by the court.

Where to Get More California Alimony Information

Unfortunately, a blog article is always limited to general questions and general informational answers.

To get specific answers about your individual situation and good legal advice, we do encourage you to consult with a qualified attorney who focuses his or her practice on family law and divorce law.

We welcome you to consult with our family law attorneys regarding any and all California alimony questions.  Email info@heathnewton.com or call 415.398.1290.

California Guide to Child and Spousal Support eBook Download

Categories: Support

Leave a Comment: