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How much and how long: A look at alimony payments in California

If your spouse made significantly more money than you did over the course of your marriage or you forwent a career in order to take care of your children, you might be concerned about your finances after your divorce. You wouldn't be alone either.

Divorce can create major problems for lower-earning spouses who are no longer able to rely on their partner for financial stability. In such cases, it's necessary to consider alimony payments, also called spousal support.

But what type of alimony should a lower-earning spouse request? In addition, how is such a determination made in California?

Let's take a look.

Types of alimony in California

Spousal support (a.k.a. alimony) is defined by the California Courts as a court order for "one spouse or domestic partner to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month." There is no set length of time on these orders by state law, rather divorcing couples come to an agreement on how long an order will be in place. As such, there are several types of alimony couples can agree to:

  • Temporary alimony - Traditionally paid during the time that a couple is separated up until the divorce is finalized
  • Rehabilitative alimony - Payments meant to help out a lower-earning spouse until they become self-supporting
  • Permanent alimony - Continues until the lower-earning spouse dies or remarries
  • Reimbursement alimony - Payments made to offset a lower-earning spouse's expenses, typically for vocational training or education so as to rejoin the workforce
  • Lump-sum alimony - Payments made instead of a property settlement

How are spousal support determinations made?

Under California law, spouses and domestic partners are allowed to come to an agreement regarding alimony payments instead of letting a judge decide. In such cases, couples need to consider a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Length of marriage
  • Age and physical condition of each spouse
  • Each spouse's earning capability
  • The paying spouse's ability to support him or herself
  • Standard of living during marriage

Considering these and other factors helps divorcing or separating couples determine how much an alimony award should be for and for how long the paying spouse needs to continue their obligation. Couples may even specify when and how payments will be made, all without ever stepping foot before a judge.

Getting help drafting an agreement

It's important to know that drafting alimony agreements is not always a walk in the park. These legal documents can be incredibly tricky because of how complex our state laws are. Getting help from a qualified family law attorney is always advised in these types of matters.

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