What You Need to Know About Alimony vs. Spousal Support in California

In California child custody cases, the terms alimony and spousal support are synonymous. Here’s everything you need to know about alimony vs. spousal support in California.

In California, alimony, which is also referred to as spousal support, pertains to the payment one spouse makes to the other after divorce proceedings are initiated. Alimony/spousal support is determined in a written agreement order and filed before any payments are made to alleviate any dispute that may arise between the ex-spouses. In California, divorcing spouses can choose from temporary or permanent alimony/spousal support, or both.

Defining Alimony/Spousal Support

Spousal support is a gender-neutral term. It is important to remember that the terms alimony and spousal support can be used interchangeably in California. For ease of reading, both terms will be referred to as alimony for the remainder of the article.

Related: How to Calculate Spousal Support/Alimony in California

What is Temporary Alimony?

Temporary alimony refers to payments made on a regular basis from the spouse who earns more money to their former spouse who earns less. This form of alimony is seen as temporary because it is meant to provide some financial support for the spouse who earns less during the divorce proceedings and until they are back on their feet. Temporary alimony ends once a permanent alimony award has been set after the divorce. Temporary alimony can be calculated using a specialized family software program, which takes figures such as spousal income, health insurance, and deductions into account.

What is Permanent Alimony?

Permanent alimony is considered to be long-term financial support. Permanent alimony payments from one spouse to the other are consistent and longstanding. As opposed to temporary alimony, where one spouse makes payments to cover divorce expenses, permanent alimony withstands the divorce. Permanent alimony is in place to mimic the “marital standard of living” experienced by both spouses during the marriage. For example, permanent alimony after the divorce will align with the degree of financial comfort enjoyed by each partner during their marriage.

Related: How Long Does Alimony Last in California?

If spouses have difficulty in determining their permanent alimony, their issue can be brought to court. At this point, a judge will have the authority to decide the value of the alimony payments, as well as the duration at which they are paid.

In their deliberations, judges will consider each spouse’s ability to meet their marital standard of living. They will also consider the following factors:

  • The current job market,
  • Whether further education is required to maintain their marital standard of living,
  • Which spouse will pay for education/training/or professional licensing (if applicable),
  • How potential unemployment during the marriage will affect their future pursuits,
  • One spouse’s fitness to pay alimony based on their earning capacity,
  • Both individuals’ economic needs, debts, financial obligations,
  • Whether one or both spouses need to take care of their children,
  • The length of the marriage, and
  • The status of their physical and mental health and wellbeing (to ensure they are able to provide for their ex-spouse/children).

Contact Us

If you or a loved one have any more questions about alimony vs. spousal support in California, contact us for your free consultation. We can get you in touch with the right spousal Support Attorney for your unique legal situation.