Can a same-sex spouse get alimony in California?

Spousal support (alimony) is often a touchy subject these days because many people see it as part of a bygone era when men worked outside of the home and married women had little resources for themselves.

That makes it an even touchier subject, emotionally, for same-sex couples. Because the stereotypical gender roles are usually not observed, some people think that a same-sex spouse who seeks alimony is merely mooching off his or her ex.

Is that fair?

It depends on the circumstances. Like most things in love and marriage, there are a lot of grey areas that have to be considered:

1. Did the couple agree to spousal support?

Just like heterosexual couples, same-sex couples can make agreements regarding spousal support. If both members of the couple agree that one spouse deserves some support for a period of time, perhaps to get back on his or her feet after the divorce, that's generally acceptable to the court. There's also certainly no shame in admitting that you need help starting out if your spouse is in a better financial position than you are to start over.

2. Is one member of the couple in poor health?

A spouse that becomes disabled during the marriage is generally going to be entitled to some form of support from an able-bodied spouse. This actually protects society as a whole -- it keeps people who are less-than-honorable about their marriage vows from simply dumping a spouse who gets ill with no way to survive except on state or federal benefits.

3. Did one spouse give up substantially more than the other for the sake of the marriage?

All marriages are, at least partially, a financial contract between the parties involved. If one member of the couple put his or her career on hold, changed cities, took a lower paying job or became the primary caretaker of the home and children for the sake of the marriage or his or her spouse's career, it's only reasonable to ask for support -- at least long enough to restart a career or move back onto a better financial footing. It may even be possible to simply ask for the more financially stable spouse to pay for necessary schooling or career training, instead of general alimony.

An attorney can provide more information on issues relating to same-sex divorce.

Source: FindLaw, "California Spousal Support or Alimony Law," accessed Aug. 03, 2017

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