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Alimony awards in California family law matters

Dear Clients and Friends.

Can I get alimony? Will I have to pay alimony? and, How much alimony and for how long?  are popular inquires for Family Law attorneys. In California, alimony is referred to as Spousal Support.  It is an independent calculation from that of Child Support.

To seek any type of support order – be it Child Support or Spousal Support – one must file a formal request with the Court. This Request must include a sworn statement relating to the facts along with the law supporting the request.

At the hearing the Court will decide to award (or not) an interim order for Spousal Support. At this stage the Court will most often determine the amount of monthly payments to be made from a computer generated calculation. This “Guideline” amount will last until the parties voluntarily enter into a permanent agreement for Spousal Support  or the Court rules on it.  

There are a series of factors that the Court must consider under California Family Law Code section 4320 when issuing a permanent spousal support order. 

The court looks at the earning capacity of each spouse and whether it is sufficient to allow him or her a similar standard of living as that experienced during the marriage.

Both the amount of the permanent spousal support award and how long it will be paid will vary from Judge to Judge. The trial Judge has wide discretion in this area.

An important guideline for the amount of spousal support is based on the couple’s standard of living during the marriage. 

It is also the policy of the State of California that every person should be employed and self-supporting to the extent possible for that person.

Judges around the State strongly encourage unemployed or underemployed spouses to become fully employed to the best of their ability. If this means obtaining an education or training, that spouse is expected to immediately pursue the education and/or employment. This may be difficult for spouses who have not worked outside of the home and are experiencing the trauma of divorce but it does need to be done.

If the court orders that monthly support be paid until remarriage, death or further order of the court, the supporting Spouse may come back to court, perhaps every few years, to ask the court to review, reduce or terminate the support order. A reduction or termination can be obtained based upon new circumstances of the parties. 

It is important to have a “warning” included in any spousal support order directing the supported spouse to seek education, training or employment. This is called a “Gavron Warning.” Otherwise the supporting spouse may be out of luck when returning to court because the supported spouse may take the position that he or she didn’t know they had to pursue an education or work, and therefore spousal support should never be reduced or terminated.

Child Support is more predictable because it is always a computer generated calculation determined on a statutorily based formula.  

Do call us for a free phone evaluation if anything further is needed from us regarding a family law matter for yourself or another



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