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California spousal support basics

Spousal support can be a contentious issue during the divorce process. When a couple divorces, the court may order spousal support be paid by one spouse to the other. In circumstances of a divorce between domestic partners, it may be referred to as partner support and when a marriage is ending, it is referred to as spousal support or alimony.

There are a variety of factors the family law court considers when determining if it will award spousal support. Factors the court will consider include the length of the marriage; the standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage; what the paying spouse can pay; the earning capacity of the spouses; the age and health of the spouses; the property and debts of the spouses; the impact employment may have on caring for children; if one spouse's career was impacted by caring for children or the home; if one of the spouses contributed to the education or career of the other spouse; the tax impact of an award of spousal support; and if there was any domestic violence in the marriage.

Divorcing couples can agree to spousal support or one spouse may request it from the court and the family law court will consider the factors noted to determine if an award of spousal support should be made. When determining spousal support factors, the court will consider the marketable skills of the spouses; the job market for those skills; and the time and expense that will be needed to help the recipient spouse obtain a job, as well as other considerations.

Spousal support can be awarded in different amounts and for different periods of time, based on factors the court considers, and can be a complicated consideration. As a result, it can be helpful for divorcing couples to understand spousal support and how it is awarded which can help provide for a more peaceful divorce process.

Source: California Courts, "Spousal/Partner Support," Accessed Sept. 13, 2017

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