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How does spousal support work in California?

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2023 | Firm News |

Spousal support, often called alimony, provides financial assistance from one spouse to the other after the marriage ends. California has specific laws about when courts can award spousal support.

Understanding how alimony works in the state can help you navigate this complex aspect of divorce.

Defining temporary vs. permanent support

The court can award temporary support during the divorce proceedings based on the spouse’s immediate needs and financial status. Permanent support takes effect after the divorce becomes final. It may continue for an extended period, often until the recipient becomes self-supporting.

Determining eligibility

California courts consider various factors to determine eligibility for spousal support, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each person’s earning capacity
  • Each person’s financial needs
  • The standard of living during the marriage

If the couple has children together, their child custody agreement can also influence alimony. However, gender does not factor into spousal support agreements. According to the New York Times, women serve as the breadwinners in about half of American households, so they are equally likely to pay spousal support under the law.

Calculating spousal support

The state uses a formula that accounts for the income of both spouses to determine a fair amount of support. However, the judge can make a final determination that diverges from this formula depending on the specific circumstances of the divorce.

The court may also consider the tax implications of spousal support for each party. As of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, effective from 2019, the paying spouse can no longer deduct spousal support payments from their income taxes. The recipient no longer has to declare these payments as taxable income.

When the court makes a spousal support determination, failure to follow its terms can result in legal consequences. Either party can request modification of spousal support based on a change in financial circumstances.