Legal Information: California

Divorce

Updated: 
April 4, 2019

Can I get spousal support? What factors will a judge consider?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is financial support paid by, or to, your spouse. The goal of alimony in California is to allow the party who gets alimony to be self-supporting within a 'reasonable period" of time. For marriages that lasted less than ten 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;
  • all documented evidence of any history of domestic violence (as defined by law) between the parties or committed by either party against either party's child. The type of documented evidence the judge will consider includes (but is not limited to):
    • a plea of "nolo contendere;"
    • 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);
    • if a protective order was after a hearing under this section of the law;
    • a determination (finding) made by a judge in a divorce, separation, child custody proceeding, or domestic violence restraining order proceeding that a spouse committed domestic violence; and
  • any other factors that the judge determines are fair and just.3

Note: If the person requesting alimony has been criminally convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, felony domestic violence, or a violent sexual felony against his/her spouse within a certain timeframe, this will affect whether or not the judge awards him/her spousal support.4 For more information, see If my spouse was convicted of abusing me, can I be ordered to pay him/her spousal support? What if I was wrongfully convicted of abusing my spouse but I am the real victim?

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