In California, when a married couple legally separates or files for divorce, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal support (alimony) to the lower-earning spouse. California judges can award temporary support while the divorce is pending and spousal support after the divorce has been finalized.
Contrary to popular belief, spousal support is not automatic in a California divorce. Much of it comes down to one spouse’s need for it, and the other spouse’s ability to pay it. Some of the factors considered by a judge when determining whether or not to order spousal support include:
- The age and health of each spouse
- Each spouse’s education and earning capacity
- Each spouse’s income and assets
- The length of the marriage
- If one spouse has the children most of the time
- A spouse’s contribution to the other spouse’s education
- A spouse’s contribution as a homemaker or stay-at-home parent
Note: As of January 1, 2019, sweeping changes in the tax laws made it so spousal support is no longer tax-deductible for the paying spouse, nor is it any longer counted as income by the receiving spouse for tax purposes. This change in the tax treatment of spousal support impacts all divorcing couples, however, it affects wealthy paying spouses more than any other group.
Terminating Spousal Support in California
Now that there is no longer a tax incentive for divorcing spouses to pay spousal support, more spouses are eager to end their spousal support payments sooner than later. In California, spousal support ends when:
- A court order says that it ends
- A judgement says that it ends
- One spouse passes away
- The person receiving spousal support remarries
If spousal support is ordered, it’s common for a judge to set it to last for half the length of the marriage, for example, if a marriage lasted five years, it may be set for two and a half years. However, in marriages of a long duration (10 or more years), a judge may order spousal support without an end date, but it is subject to modification if there is an important or significant change in circumstances. Regardless of the length of the marriage, judges do have discretion when it comes to the duration of support.
If you need assistance with a divorce or spousal support matter, please contact The Law Office of David A. Martin & Associates.