Because of the changing workforce and equality, it is no longer assumed that alimony is available when couples end their marriage or relationships. But this support, now known as permanent or long-term spousal support, may be ordered after divorce or the end of a domestic partnership in California under certain circumstances.
This support is also referred to as spousal or domestic partner support. Many marriages and partnerships end without payment of this support. But long-term support may be ordered after a lengthy marriage, or if one person earns substantially more than the other.
Judges may issue three types of orders:
- Requiring a support amount that one spouse pays the other.
- Reserve spousal support where the court does not order support now but may in the future.
- Terminate the court’s ability to award support.
Support is intended to last for the reasonable time needed for the receiving spouse to become self-supporting. It is assumed that this takes more time for longer marriages.
Typically, support will last for half the length of a marriage lasting less than 10 years. There is no assumption of reasonable support for marriages over 10 years. Support for marriages lasting over 10 years may last as long as one spouse needs this support and the other spouse can afford it.
Support may end when the spouses agree on the termination date and the court approves that agreement. It may also end if either spouse dies, the recipient spouse remarries, or the court orders its termination.
The length and duration of support depend on how long it will take for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting and the amount of money they will need to reach this goal. The court will consider these factors when making this determination:
- The marriage length
- The recipient’s age and health
- The recipient’s income
- The recipient spouse’s earning capacity comprised of their skills and education for the job market and the length of time to gain this training and education
- The recipient’s standard of living during their marriage
- Each person’s property and debt
- Whether one spouse helped the other obtain an education, training or a professional license
- Whether the paying spouse can afford to pay for that standard of living
- Tax consequences
- Whether there was abuse in the marriage
- Whether caring for children impacted either spouse’s career
- If the recipients return to work will impact their children
Spouses can seek legal representation and negotiate a spousal support agreement. A court may rule on this issue if the couple cannot agree.