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Alimony is one of the most well-known potential outcomes of a divorce. You might be worried about being forced to pay more than you can afford or any of the other horror stories you hear about from movies and TV. However, there’s much more to this subject than what you’ll learn from pop culture. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about California alimony, how it’s determined, and how to get your spousal support order changed when you need it.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is another word for spousal support. It’s a court-ordered payment from one divorced or separated partner to the other. It’s intended to help lower-earning partners maintain their quality of life after leaving their higher-earning partners. Most alimony orders are temporary, “rehabilitative” orders. They’re design to help the lower-earning spouse survive until they can the job skills and education necessary to support themselves.

These orders aren’t intended as a punishment, and they aren’t guaranteed to happen. For example, if a couple earns relatively similar incomes, then it’s unlikely that the court will consider support necessary.

How California Determines Alimony

In California, spousal support orders are mainly determined by two factors: the length of the marriage and the spouses’ relative income.

The length of the marriage determines how long these orders will last. Spousal support is typically a temporary order, but not always. The rule of thumb for marriages under ten years is that the order should last half the length of the legal relationship. A six-year marriage would lead to three years of support, for instance.

Meanwhile, the amount of money the court orders you to pay depends on the income disparity between partners. A stay-at-home spouse who’s given up their career to allow their partner to work is more likely to receive large payments than someone who also has a job.

Still, judges have a lot of discretion in this kind of divorce settlement. The only way to guarantee a particular alimony agreement is to negotiate with your spouse before going to court.

How to Ask for a Change to Your Spousal Support Order

Even “permanent” orders aren’t necessarily forever. You can petition to have your order changed and pay less each month if you meet specific qualifications:

  • You’ve lost your job
  • Your income has otherwise significantly decreased
  • Your ex no longer needs the money to survive

In these situations, you can petition to have the court modify or end the order. You can do this by submitting the proper paperwork to your local court. If your petition is approved, the amount you’re required to pay will be adjusted as of the date you filed the papers. That can help you keep your budget balanced and not pay more to your ex than you can afford. Your divorce attorney can help you file the correct paperwork on time.

Get the Alimony Assistance You Need

You deserve to have the money you need to live, whether you think you’re owed or need to pay alimony. If you need help getting, avoiding, or modifying a divorce order, you should reach out to an experienced divorce attorney. The right lawyer will help you understand how spousal support works and get the result you want.