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When one spouse cannot become self-supporting after the divorce, he or she can ask the California court to award spousal support. Also called alimony, these payments allow the lower-earning partner to establish a separate household.

Before divorcing, review the details about how spousal support works in California.

Factors in calculating support

California does not have a formula for permanent spousal support. When one spouse requests financial support, the judge will consider:

       The job status of both spouses

       Whether either spouse supported the other’s career by raising children or assisting with education costs

       Any history of domestic abuse

       The health status and age of each person

       How long the marriage lasted

       How much each person currently earns and can potentially earn in the future

       The standard of living during the marriage

The spousal support process

Either spouse can request spousal support when filing for divorce or when answering the other party’s divorce petition. California distinguishes between temporary and permanent support. Permanent support usually lasts half the length of the marriage depending on the judge’s discretion. Temporary support, calculated using a county-specific formula, lasts only from the separation date until the judge finalizes the divorce.

After the court orders spousal support, either party can ask for a modification only if circumstances significantly change. Support ends when the recipient remarries or enters a new domestic partnership, when either person dies, or on the date established in the divorce agreement.

By default in California, spousal support payments are tax-deductible for the paying party and count as income for the receiving party. However, both parties can agree to follow a new federal law under which the payer cannot deduct spousal support and the recipient does not have to report it as income.