Providing peaceful resolutions Paving paths to a fresh start
Call for your consultation

How Is Alimony Calculated in California Divorce?


How Is Alimony Calculated in California Divorce?

When a couple gets divorced or legally separated in California, there are many issues that need to be resolved as a part of the process. These often include property division, child custody, child support, and, in some cases, alimony. If you are going through a divorce, it is important to know how alimony works, who qualifies to receive it, and how payments are calculated. Our attorneys provide an overview of how alimony works in California and explain why you may want to work with an alimony attorney for your case.

What Is Alimony, and When Is It Awarded?

Alimony (also called spousal support or maintenance) are court-ordered payments made by one spouse to benefit the other spouse during or after a divorce. Alimony is typically awarded in cases where one of the spouses has a significantly higher income than the other or when one of the spouses would be left in an unfavorable financial condition after the divorce because they fully relied on the other spouse’s income to support themselves and their household.

A common example is that of a stay-at-home parent that has decided to sacrifice their career and exit the job market in order to care for children and for the home, while the other parent has a successful career and is the sole breadwinner of the family. In this case, the stay-at-home parent would need financial support to regain the skills needed to re-enter the job market and become self-supporting, which means they would most likely be able to receive alimony payments.

What Are the Different Types of Alimony Available in California?

In California, a judge may award two different kinds of spousal support. Temporary support can be awarded for a definite period of time while the divorce is pending. Once the divorce is finalized, the judge may order long-term spousal support (sometimes referred to as rehabilitative alimony).

Long-term spousal support does not usually last forever and is meant to provide the financial support the recipient may need to obtain the skills, education, or work experience required to make a living and support themselves. In some cases, the judge may also determine certain conditions that would end spousal support payments, such as when the recipient marries someone else or stops attending college.

How Are Alimony Payments Calculated?

Traditionally, alimony is thought of as money paid by an ex-husband to his ex-wife after a divorce. However, in California as well as in the rest of the country, alimony is based on the income of each spouse and their ability to make a living for themselves. That means the gender of the recipient is not relevant – spousal support can be paid or received by either spouse, depending on which spouse is the highest earner.

When calculating temporary alimony payments, courts in California use a formula that takes into consideration the income of both spouses. However, there is no formula to calculate long-term spousal support. Instead, the courts may take a variety of factors into consideration to determine how much each alimony payment should be and how long payments should last.

Some of those factors include each spouse’s needs, the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage, and each spouse’s ability to earn a living (including their education, job skills, the current conditions of the job market, and whether either spouse would require vocational training to re-enter the job market). A judge may also consider each spouse’s age and health, the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s debts and assets, and whether there is any history of domestic violence in the relationship.

In addition, some marriages may qualify for indefinite jurisdiction. Indefinite jurisdiction simply means a judge has the authority to extend, adjust or reinstate alimony payments at any point. This is most commonly seen in marriages lasting over ten years and is not the same as permanent alimony. You may want to ask an attorney to see if your case would qualify for indefinite jurisdiction.

Can Alimony Payments Be Modified or Canceled?

Alimony payments can usually be modified or stopped if the party making the payments can demonstrate that their circumstances have changed or that their ex-spouse no longer needs the payments. However, because alimony payments are ordered by the court, you may not make any changes or stop paying spousal support without a new court order authorizing the modifications.

It is worth mentioning that, in some cases, a judge may order alimony to be paid as a lump sum in a single transaction. While that can be advantageous for some divorcing couples because it eliminates the need for monthly payments, it also means neither side may make a spousal support modification request later on.

In most cases, you may submit a modification request by filing a form with the appropriate court. This approach tends to be effective when both spouses agree to the changes. However, if there are disagreements, it may be best to consult an alimony attorney. Your attorney can help you through the modification process and advise you on how to handle any conflicts.

At Hepner & Pagan, our attorneys focus on helping clients navigate a variety of family law issues, including divorce, legal separation, and spousal support matters. If you are going through a family law dispute, have questions, or need help filing a modification, our legal team is ready to assist you. Contact our office by calling 408-688-9153 to schedule your initial consultation and learn your options.

Related Articles