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How spousal support is determined in California

If you’re the breadwinner of the family and going through a divorce, there’s a good chance you’ll be ordered to pay spousal support. Often referred to as “alimony,” spousal support is designed to provide compensation to the spouse with lower earning potential. The purpose of this compensation is to protect the supported spouse from economic fallout and help them maintain the standard of living they’ve become accustomed to while married.

What factors will the judge consider when determining spousal support?

There are many factors a California judge will consider before ruling on spousal support, those include:

  • The length of your marriage or domestic partnership
  • Age and health status of both parties
  • Any marital debts
  • Earning potential for each party
  • What marketable skills your ex has
  • The job market for those skills
  • How much time and money it would take for your ex to get the training or education they need to become more marketable and find work
  • Standard of living for both parties
  • If and how many years your ex stayed home to raise a family or handle domestic duties
  • If having a job would interfere or make it too difficult for your ex to care for the children
  • If there have been any issues of domestic violence
  • The tax implications of spousal support (please note: this gets tricky for domestic partnerships, as state and federal laws have not been changed to include them)

Is there a time limit on spousal support?

There is no set time limit for how long you’ll have to pay spousal support, it typically ends when:

  • Your ex remarries
  • One of your passes away
  • A new court-order or judgment declares it’s over

What happens if you fall behind on payments?

If you fall behind or fail to pay spousal support, you will incur 10 percent interest per year on the balance due. Depending on the circumstances, your wages could also be garnished for payment. Spousal support is court-ordered, failure to oblige might place you “in contempt of court,” which could leave you facing possible jail time.

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