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Review: How does spousal support work in California?

On Behalf of | Jul 14, 2023 | Child Support |

California is one of the many states that allow a divorcing spouse to ask for spousal support from the other spouse.

Spousal support, which many also call alimony, works a bit differently than child support.

California courts determine child support through a legal formula. On the other hand, the courts have a lot more discretion to consider the divorcing parties’ circumstances before awarding spousal support.

Judges may consider a number of factors when making their decisions about whether to award spousal support and in what amount. These factors will apply differently depending on the circumstances.

Basically, the courts are going to consider what a spouse in need of support will require in order to be able to support themselves. Spouses receiving support are expected to do what they can to maintain their desired standard of living without support.

Courts order what they call long-term support more often in cases where a couple stays married for a long time, and one spouse is able to earn considerably more income.

There are some basic rules about long-term support

Even though spousal support will depend a lot on individual circumstances, there are some basic principles those who live in Riverside or other parts of the Inland Empire should be aware of.

  • If your marriage lasted less than 10 years, the court will assume that support should continue through half the length of the marriage. So, if you are married for 8 years, the default is you get support for 4 years at the most.
  • The court can, when deciding spousal support, either order support or permanently deny it. The court can also reserve the question, meaning it will not order support but could revisit the question later.
  • You and your spouse are free to enter agreements about spousal support and submit them for approval. In your agreements, you may include an end date for spousal support. The court will honor that date.
  • Otherwise, support ends when the court terminates it or when you or your spouse dies. Support also ends if, after receiving support, you remarry.
  • You have the option to ask the court to change spousal support orders after you finalize your divorce.


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