The Basics of Spousal Support in California

The basics of spousal support, also known as alimony, is the legal obligation of a person to provide financial support to their spouse during or after a divorce.

This can be an extremely difficult part of the divorce process for some couples, but spousal support is ultimately a fair way to distribute income between an earning or high-earning spouse and a non-earning or low-earning spouse.

In this post, you’ll learn the basics of spousal support in California.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support comes in a series of payments made by the higher-earning spouse to the other during the divorce process and after. The purpose of alimony is to make the transition from being completely or partially financially supported to not being supported as smooth as possible for the lower-earning spouse.

Kinds of Spousal Support in California

The court system in California offers temporary, rehabilitative, and permanent alimony options. California also recognizes a unique type of alimony known as reimbursement support. A spousal support attorney can answer any questions you have about the different kinds of spousal support in California.

Temporary Spousal Support

If a previously supported spouse requests temporary spousal support during the divorce process, it can be granted from the date requested until the judge finalizes the divorce. This type of spousal support helps the lower-earning spouse cover their cost of living before they’re officially separated from their spouse.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support

The most common type of alimony is rehabilitative support. This kind of support frequently happens in cases where one spouse earns more than the other or was the primary breadwinner while the other spouse cared for their children. The goal of rehabilitative support is to provide for the lower-earning spouse and to give them the opportunity to gain job skills or education  as they prepare to enter the workforce and support themselves.

Permanent Spousal Support

Permanent spousal support is extremely rare and is usually reserved for spouses ending a long-term marriage (10 years+) where one spouse wouldn’t be successful entering the workforce because of their advanced age or illness.

Reimbursement Spousal Support

California’s unique reimbursement spousal support allows a spouse to ask for reimbursement if they helped finance the other’s education or career advancement during the marriage. The idea behind this kind of alimony is that when spouses work together to help one partner obtain an advanced degree or training, they would have both benefited from the advancements during the marriage. When the marriage ends, only the spouse mentioned will continue to take value from the education or other advancement, and the court understands that might not be fair to the other spouse.

How Do California Courts Determine Spousal Support?

In California, spousal support is gender neutral—either spouse can request it from the other regardless of gender. The rule of thumb in all spousal support cases is that the requesting spouse must demonstrate the need for support and the other spouse has to show that they’re able to provide it. If you and your spouse can’t do so, it’s unlikely that support will be awarded.

For temporary support requests, the court gathers financial information from each spouse.

For the other types of California spousal support, the court determines each spouse’s income and evaluates the following factors to determine the final spousal support amount:

  • Each spouse’s earning capacity
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each party
  • The paying spouse’s ability to pay spousal support (earning capacity, earned and unearned income, standard of living, and assets calculated)
  • The debts and assets of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s needs based on the standard of living that was established during the marriage
  • The supported spouse’s ability to get a job without interfering with caring for the parties’ children
  • Any other factors the court wishes to take into consideration 

If spousal support plays an important part in your divorce, you need a reputable spousal support attorney. Contact Monarch Family Law today. We will fight for your right to fair spousal support in and out of court.