What Factors May a Court Consider When Awarding Spousal Support?

For better or worse, one hot-button issue that often comes up when a California couple ends their marriage is that of spousal support (also known as alimony). This is especially true when one spouse earns significantly more than the other. While one spouse may want to receive enough spousal support to maintain a certain standard of living, the spouse paying spousal support does not want to be drained financially. It is a difficult balance to reach. For this reason, it is important to understand what factors courts in California will consider when issuing spousal support.

In California, courts must take into consideration what each spouse is able to earn in order to maintain a standard of living that matches as much as possible the one they had while married. The court will examine the receiving spouse’s marketable skills and what the applicable job market is like. The court will also consider how long it will take and how much it will cost for the receiving spouse to get the education needed to obtain work. When a spouse had stayed out of the workforce while married in order to care for the home, the extent that that choice has affected that spouse’s earning capacity will also be considered.

In addition, the length of time that spousal support payments must be made will be reflected in how long the marriage lasted. The purpose of spousal support is to get the party receiving support to a place in which he or she becomes self-sufficient financially within a reasonable amount of time. Per California law, a “reasonable” amount of time is about 50 percent of how long the marriage lasted. However, the law also states that the judge has the ability to decide otherwise based on the facts of each spouse’s unique situation. In addition, if a couple was married for a decade or more, their marriage may be deemed to be “long-term” and spousal support could be permanent.

In the end, what is most important is that any spousal support arrangement made is fair and appropriate to both parties. While it may be a volatile issue in some cases, it is important that each spouse is able to meet his or her financial needs following a divorce. Those who have questions about how spousal support will be allocated in their case may want to seek legal advice.

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