Under California law, alimony occurs when a couple legally separates or divorces and the court orders one of the spouses to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month. Alimony is generally meant to ensure that a former spouse can transition out of the marriage without becoming a burden on the state. Alimony is separate from any payments made for child support that may be based off the circumstances of the child custody agreement. 

How Do You Qualify for Alimony?

When making an alimony determination, a judge must consider what each spouse or partner can earn to keep a standard of living close to what they each had during the marriage. The following factors will be considered:

  • Skills of the spouse getting support and the job market for those skills;
  • Time and expense the spouse will need to get the education/training to develop marketable skills or to get a job; and
  • The extent that the earning capacity (the ability to earn income) of the spouse was impaired by periods of unemployment during the marriage when he or she was devoted to the domestic responsibilities of the marriage.

The court will also consider the length of the marriage when making alimony determinations. Generally, the longer the marriage the longer the time for alimony payments. For example, a court would usually require alimony payments be made for a significantly greater amount of time for a marriage that lasted 20 years as opposed to 2 months.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive?

California allows judges to consider many different factors when deciding of how much alimony a former spouse may receive. These factors include:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The former spouses need based on the standard of living they had during the (and the paying spouse’s ability to make payments);
  • The impact any children may have on the former spouse’s ability to secure employment;
  • The age and health of both former spouses;
  • Debts (including bankruptcy issues) and property of the marriage and the spouses separately, including any tax considerations; and
  • Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

Alimony payments generally ends when one of the following happens:

  • A court order or judgment says it ends;
  • One of the spouses dies;
  • The person getting the support remarries; or
  • The person getting the support cohabitates with a person they are in a romantic relationship with.

There is no limit of the time alimony payments may be required under California law. However, courts will generally follow a guideline of alimony payments for a duration equal to half the length of the marriage for marriages that lasted 10 years or less.

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

An alimony petition is best handled by a lawyer; this is especially so when there are significant assets or debts tied to the ending marriage. California law provides for specific steps that must be taken to ensure that a petition for alimony is proper and heard by a judge. Your divorce lawyer will require specific paperwork from you to ensure that the appropriate amount of alimony is being requested during the alimony petition process. Collect all documentation demonstrating all income for you and your former partner and gather all mortgage and deed paperwork that shows exactly what property is owned.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

Contact your local California family lawyer to discuss the alimony petition process. You lawyer will provide you with the legal guidance you need to ensure that you get the alimony you are entitled to.