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The Basic Elements of California Spousal Support

Making the transition from being married to being divorced can be a massive challenge emotionally, socially and - for most spouses - financially.

The financial transition can prove to be especially frustrating and scary if you are someone who took care of the home or kids during your marriage, as you may not be able to quickly transition back into the work force to support yourself after divorce. There are many reasons for this - maybe the children still need you at home, maybe your work skills are no longer current, maybe you were never in the work force to begin with. If you are in this situation, then you need to be aware of the options for spousal support (also known as "alimony" in states other than California).

The purpose of spousal support/alimony

Spousal support is a means of helping a financially disadvantaged spouse after divorce. If your ex-spouse can pay it and you need it, then the courts might award it to you. The support may last a shorter, specific period of time or it may be in place indefinitely, depending upon the need and the duration of the marriage.

Factors that affect alimony

Before the courts award alimony, they will consider several factors. These factors are set forth in California Family Code section 4320, and include:

  • (1) The earning capacity of each party;
  • (2) The marketable skills of the party seeking support;
  • (3) The extent to which the party seeking support has had their ability to earn diminished by a commitment to caring for the family;
  • (4) The extent to which the party seeking support contributed to the other party's education or career;
  • (5) The ability of each party to earn and/or pay support;
  • (6) The needs of each party;
  • (7) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party;
  • (8) The ability of the supported party to work and earn without negatively affecting the children;
  • (9) The length of the marriage;
  • (10) Documented evidence of domestic violence between the parties;
  • (11) The "immediate and specific tax consequences" to each party;
  • (12) The "balance of hardships" to each party;
  • (13) The obligation of both parties to become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time;
    (14) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse; and
  • (15) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

Based on these and many other details, the courts can decide to grant or deny a request for spousal support/alimony.

What you can do to help your case

If you want to improve your chances of securing spousal support you can work out an agreement with your ex-spouse through settlement or a mediated agreement, instead of leaving the decision up to the courts. If the issue does go to court, then you can work with your attorney to build your case for financial support.

In either case, having any attorney by your side can be critical in protecting your financial interests. Transitioning out of divorce is difficult, but it can be a little easier with the right resources and agreements in place.

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