Who Qualifies for Alimony in California?

Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is a financial award that may be granted to one spouse during a divorce case in California to maintain the recipient’s standard of living. If you are wondering whether you qualify for alimony during your divorce, learn California’s spousal support laws to understand your rights. Fighting for alimony is something that a family lawyer in California can help you with.

Who Gets Spousal Support in California?

The purpose of alimony is to help cover the lower-earning spouse’s expenses after a divorce. It is a monetary award that the higher-earning spouse may have to pay the lower earner to maintain the latter’s current standard of living. If one person is used to living a certain way, he or she may be entitled to spousal support to maintain this lifestyle after the marriage ends – even if that person does not have a job or employability skills. 

Alimony in California is primarily determined based on the financial status of each spouse. In general, if one spouse requires financial support and the other spouse can afford to pay, the judge will order spousal support. The courts base the amount of alimony awarded on what is reasonably necessary to allow the recipient to maintain the standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.

California does not have a universal rule determining whether someone will receive alimony in a divorce. The courts carefully analyze the relevant facts and make determinations on a case-by-case basis. Some of the factors that the courts look at are each spouse’s financial needs and ability to maintain their standard of living, how much raising children or taking care of the household impacted the lower earner’s ability to make a living, and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. 

How Long Do I Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in California?

No rule in California requires a couple to be married for a certain number of years to qualify for alimony. A couple with a marriage of any duration may have a divorce case that involves alimony if one spouse has financial need and the other has the means to pay. However, the length of the marriage may be a factor in the court’s calculation of an appropriate amount of spousal support. Longer marriages (10-plus years) tend to result in higher and longer-lasting alimony awards.

Is a Wife Entitled to Alimony in a Divorce Case in California?

No. Neither spouse is entitled to alimony in a divorce case in California. This is something that one spouse must request from the courts, along with proof that he or she is eligible. The courts in California do not base alimony payments on gender or fault for the divorce. Either spouse may request spousal support or maintenance, regardless of gender and the reason for the divorce.

Two Types of Spousal Support

 A spousal support award could be temporary or permanent. This does not refer to the amount of time that the order lasts. Temporary alimony in California refers to an award given from the time that the couple files for divorce until the divorce has been finalized. This type of order helps the recipient financially while the divorce is pending.

 A permanent order is a more lasting spousal support award granted as part of the divorce decree. Despite the name, permanent alimony may not last for a recipient’s lifetime. It often ends after a predetermined amount of time, or once the recipient has attained enough training or education to become financially independent. It is possible, however, for the courts to award alimony without an end date, especially if a couple has been married for a long time.


If you are curious whether you qualify for alimony in California, contact an experienced divorce attorney at Boyd Law for a free consultation.