In California, monthly alimony or "spousal support" may be ordered by the court or agreed upon by the spouses as part of their settlement agreement to be paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to alleviate any unfair economic burdens that may befall the lower-wage-earning spouse or the non-wage-earning spouse after a divorce takes place. Alimony awards can vary greatly in amount and length of time for which it must be paid. The basics of California spousal support (or alimony) laws are discussed in this article. FindLaw also provides state-specific links to alimony court forms and instructions.
Factors in Spousal Support Rulings
In California, various factors are taken into consideration when determining an alimony order:
- Age, physical condition, and financial condition of the spouses;
- The spouses' earning abilities;
- The standard of living during marriage (i.e. if the payee spouse was used to a very high standard of living during marriage, the court may order more alimony to be paid than if the payee spouse was used to a very low standard of living);
- The length of the marriage; and
- The ability of the payer spouse to support himself/herself
Enforcing Spousal Support
Alimony is a more difficult type of support to enforce. Unlike child support, where non-payment can result in the wage garnishing, liens and other such enforcement measures to ensure that the support is paid, spousal support can be enforced if the payee spouse takes the payer spouse to court in a contempt proceeding. This of course, requires an additional step and expense of the spouse receiving payments. Alimony payments will cease on the recipient spouse's remarriage or death. Otherwise, depending on the type of alimony and the ordered or agreed upon term of payment, the payer spouse is obligated to continue to make monthly payments.