Working through a divorce can be an extremely emotional time and agreements made through out-of-court mediation are not always possible. Alimony, also known as spousal support, can be a central issue in divorce proceedings. Many factors concerning spousal support are highly subjective and an experienced attorney can help to protect your interests.

How the Amount of Support Is Determined

Spousal support payments are intended to be a bridge for a low-income spouse between the quality of life experienced during a marriage and the goal of self-sufficiency. Spousal support is not an automatic process and is most commonly employed in longer marriages where there is a large discrepancy between each spouse’s salaries. Deliberations concerning spousal support have no definite methods for determining appropriate monetary support and are largely left up to the discretion of the court.

Generally, when determining the amount of support necessary, a judge will consider the ability of the higher earning spouse to pay alongside the present and projected needs of the spouse seeking support.

Factors Considered for Alimony:

  • The standard of living experienced during a marriage
  • Income and debts of each spouse
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Present and future needs of any dependents
  • Length of time a spouse has been out of the workforce

Length of Time Alimony is Received

In California, the duration of spousal support payments is most affected by the overall length of the marriage. For marriages lasting less than ten years, spousal support is commonly set for half of the duration of the marriage. For marriages lasting over ten years, the duration of spousal support is less clear and may not have a set date of termination. Although post-divorce spousal support is often referred to as “permanent”, cases of indefinite support are usually reserved for spouses who are unable to regain financial independence due to age or physical disability.

Events which can lead to the termination of spousal support include:

  • The spouse receiving support remarries
  • A spouse successfully becomes self-supporting
  • Changes to the employment status of either spouse
  • A spouse does not become self-supporting after a reasonable amount of time

Modifications to Alimony

As circumstances change, it is possible to request modifications to a spousal support agreement. Whereas a drastic change in circumstances can bring about the need to terminate spousal support, it can also lead to a modification. A change must be significant in order to modify a spousal support agreement. For example, a drastic change in income can leave one party unable to continue payment of the agreed upon amount. A timeline for considering modifications can also be written into the terms of a spousal support agreement, but it must be approved by both parties.