Legal Information: California


June 18, 2018

Can I get alimony? What factors will a judge consider?

Alimony is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse.  The goal of alimony in California is to have the party receiving alimony be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.  For marriages that lasted less than 10 years, a “reasonable period” is considered to be half of the length of the marriage.1  However, the judge is not limited by this and may order support for a shorter or longer period of time.2

The judge will consider certain factors to determine a fair alimony award.  These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The extent to which the earning capacity of you and your spouse is sufficient to maintain the standard of living that was established during the marriage, while considering:
    • The marketable skills you might have;
    • The job market for those skills;
    • The time and cost required for you to get the necessary education or training to develop those skills;
    • The possible need for retraining or education to get more marketable skills; and
    • How much your present or future earning capacity may have been restricted based on  periods of unemployment during the marriage for the purpose of  you taking care of household duties;
  • The amount that you contributed to your spouse getting an education, training, career position, or a license;
  • The ability of your spouse to pay alimony, considering his/her earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living;
  • The needs of you and your spouse based upon the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • The obligations and assets of you and your spouse, including non-marital property;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • Your ability to work without interfering with the interests of the children in your custody;
  • The age and health of you and your spouse;
  • The immediate and specific tax consequences to you and your spouse;
  • Hardships facing you and your spouse;
  • Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence committed by you or your spouse against each other or against a child of you or your spouse. The judge will also consider:
    • the emotional distress resulting from the violence committed against you (the person receiving alimony) by your spouse; 
    • any history of violence that  you (the person receiving alimony) may have committed against your spouse (the person paying alimony); and
  • Any other factors that the judge determines are fair and just.3

Note: If the person requesting alimony has been criminally convicted of a violent sexual felony against his/her spouse within a certain timeframe, the judge cannot award the abusive spouse alimony.  If s/he has been criminally convicted of domestic violence within the past 5 years, the judge will assume that alimony should not be awarded (but evidence can be presented to the judge to change his/her mind).4  For more information, see If my spouse was convicted of domestic violence or sexual assault against me, can I be ordered to pay him/her alimony?

1 Cal. Fam. Code §§ 4320(l); 4336(b)
2 Cal. Fam. Code § 4320(l)
3 Cal. Fam. Code § 4320(a)-(k),(n)
4 Cal. Fam. Code §§ 4320(m); 4324.5(a)(1), 4325