Legal Information: California


June 18, 2018

If my spouse was convicted of domestic violence or sexual assault against me, can I be ordered to pay him/her alimony?

It depends.  If your spouse was convicted of attempted murder or solicitation of murder against you, the judge is prohibited from ordering you to pay any temporary or permanent spousal support or medical, life, or other insurance benefits or payments.1

If your spouse was convicted of a violent sexual felony against you and you file for a divorce within 5 years of the conviction and of any time served in custody, on probation, or on parole, you cannot be ordered to pay spousal support.  It is possible, however, that the judge can allow both parties' attorney's fees and costs to be paid from the community assets - although you cannot be required to pay any of your spouse's attorney's fees from your separate property.  In addition, you will be entitled to 100 percent of the community property interest in your retirement and pension benefits.2  Note: For purposes of this law, the following crimes are considered violent sexual felonies:

  • Rape (as defined in paragraph (2) or (6) of subdivision (a) of Section 261 or paragraph (1) or (4) of subdivision (a) of Section 262);
  • Sodomy as defined in subdivision (c) or (d) of Section 286;
  • Oral copulation as defined in subdivision (c) or (d) of Section 288a;
  • Sexual penetration as defined in subdivision (a) or (j) of Section 289; or
  • Rape, spousal rape, or sexual penetration, in concert, in violation of Section 264.1.3

If your spouse was convicted of an act of domestic violence against you within the five years before you filed for divorce, or at any time after you file for divorce, the judge is supposed to assume that you should not be ordered to pay him/her temporary or permanent spousal support.  However, the convicted spouse can present evidence to convince the judge to change his/her mind and order the payment of support.  For example, if the convicted spouse was actually the one who was abused by the other spouse (and has documented evidence to prove it), the judge can consider this.4 

1 Cal.Fam.Code § 4324
2 Cal.Fam.Code § 4324.5(a)
3 Cal.Fam.Code § 4324.5(b); Cal.Penal.Code § 667.5(c)(3),(4),(5),(11),(18)
4 Cal.Fam.Code § 4325