The Nuts and Bolts of California Alimony Awards

No matter what your personal opinion is on the value of alimony in this day and age, the fact remains that it is a part of countless divorces not only in California, but also across the country. Sometimes, alimony is set for a short time, while in other cases it is made permanent. Understanding how judges make determinations regarding alimony can give you a better position from which to argue for or against an award in your divorce.  To better your chances of a positive outcome of a divorce process, contact a successful San Diego, CA divorce attorney for a legal consultation.

The purpose behind spousal support payments

The historical indication for spousal support payments was to compensate a lesser-earning or stay-at-home spouse – primarily women, back when the statutes governing these payments were first enacted – during and after a divorce to give her (or him) financial stability. The idea was that payments could be made for a set time or permanently to allow the poorer spouse to continue at approximately the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage until such a time when that spouse was either financially independent or remarried.

Modern California law

While in today’s world the laws concerning spousal support in California are gender neutral, they are designed to serve the same basic purpose: allow a lesser-earning or non-earning spouse the financial stability necessary to become self-supporting (if possible). State law provides guidance to judges making determinations about alimony/support awards. The factors for judges to consider are primarily found in California Family Code Section 4320, and include:

  • Earning capacity of each party
  • Ability of each party to earn a livable wage
  • Marketable skills of the party seeking support
  • Whether gaps in the job history of the party seeking support (wherein that spouse was responsible for full-time domestic duties) will impact his or her ability to find gainful employment
  • To what extent the party seeking alimony sacrificed and/or contributed to the other spouse’s ability to earn an advanced degree or take advantage of career opportunities
  • Ability of the party from whom support is sought to make such payments
  • Age and health of both parties
  • Whether it is impracticable for the party seeking support to work because he or she has child custody of any minor or special needs children
  • Any history of domestic violence in the marriage
  • Length of the marriage
  • Tax consequences for both the paying spouse and the recipient
  • Each party’s respective share of the marital estate (both assets and debts) as assigned in the divorce
  • Balance of hardships to each party if spousal support is or is not awarded
  • Time in which the receiving spouse could reasonably be expected to obtain marketable job skills and become self-supporting
  • Standard of living during the marriage

As you can see, the determination of spousal support is not one which judges in California make lightly. Given that all of this information is unique to each divorcing couple, though, the importance of properly conveying the need for alimony payments (or the reasons why the party from whom payments are sought cannot pay) becomes apparent. While judges must consider the facts before them, the party that argues his or her perspective in a clear, concise, persuasive manner will be more likely to succeed. Statistically speaking, your best chance of getting the result you want in a family court is to have an experienced family attorney in San Diego, CA by your side. To learn more about spousal support awards, and how judges make them, contact an experienced San Diego alimony lawyer today.