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What You Need to Know About California Spousal Support

One of the most contested issues in the family law court is spousal support or alimony. If you’re planning to file for a divorce or agree to one, the court may grant spousal support to you. But whether you will be on its receiving end or become the provider, you must first learn about your rights and obligations.

According to McCunn Law, spousal support is a complex and misunderstood area of law. Alimony is supposed to equalize the earning disparity between parties. However, this sometimes leads to conflict. Let’s explore some basic information about spousal support in California so you know what to expect.

What is temporary spousal support?

Temporary spousal support or alimony is the payment a spouse gives to a non-earning or lower-earning partner while the divorce is ongoing. This financial assistance is only a short-term solution. It will end once the couple finalized their divorce and a permanent alimony reward is in place. 

The California courts calculate temporary spousal support based on a fixed formula. It involves both parties’ income, tax filing status, health insurance deductions, and other earning-related factors. In Santa Clara and Orange County, the spousal support is determined by subtracting half of the lower-earning spouse’s net monthly income from 40% of their partner’s net monthly salary.

What is permanent spousal support?

If the marriage lasted ten years, the court would most likely require permanent spousal support. Unlike the temporary spousal support fulfilled during the divorce proceedings, permanent alimony is granted to assist a spouse after the divorce. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that being ‘permanent’ means lifetime.

If you and your soon-to-be ex-partner can’t decide on permanent alimony, the court will determine the amount and duration of the support. They will take into account each person’s earning capacity and other factors, including but not limited to:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Age and health of both parties
  • Employment history and job potential
  • Financial needs based on the marital standard of living
  • Debts and assets
  • Division of marital properties
  • Contributions made to either parties’ education, training, career, or license

For marriages under ten years, the spousal support won’t last longer than half the length of your marital union. For example, if you were married to your spouse for eight years, you can expect to receive or pay financial support for four years. But if it lasted for more than ten years, it’s up to the judge to decide how long the alimony should last.

How do you request spousal support?

You or your partner can request a spousal support order once you file for a divorce or legal separation in California. However, if you’re getting an annulment, the Judicial Council of California suggests you check with a lawyer to see if you can ask for spousal support. As mentioned, you can also request temporary alimony while waiting for the final judgment of your case.

Is spousal support taxable in California?

The California tax code considers alimony payments as taxable. If you are the receiving party, you will have to report the spousal support as income on your California return. The paying spouse can also deduct it from their state income taxes if they meet the following criteria:

  • The payment is done using cash, check, or money and not in items
  • Both parties live separately throughout the alimony
  • The alimony payment stops upon the death of either party

Can spousal support be modified or terminated?

Either party can ask the court to modify or terminate their spousal support payment if the marital settlement does not state a ‘non-modifiable’ condition. The court may also require a valid reason to change the order for alimony. Both parties must agree to the modification. They must also put it in writing before presenting the same to the judge. If the spouses can’t agree, the requesting party must file a motion with the court and present evidence of a material change of circumstances.   


If you have received a divorce paper from your spouse or plan on filing one, it’s crucial to work with a legal counsel. Spousal support or alimony is a serious matter that may significantly affect your future. Whether you’re the payor or payee spouse, you must have a clear understanding of what is at stake.

A spousal support attorney has the knowledge and experience to handle your case. From requesting or responding to an alimony request to representing you at court, they can guide you every step of the way. Moreover, these legal experts will ensure you obtain your desired outcome. 

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