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What can I expect to receive in spousal support in California?

If you're going through a divorce in California and your spouse is the primary bread-winner, you may be concerned about where the divorce will leave you financially. What kind of support are you entitled to, and for how long? In this article, we break down the basics of spousal support.

How long can I get spousal support?

The first factor to consider with respect to spousal support--also known as alimony--is the duration of the marriage. In California, if you were married for under 10 years, then you could receive alimony for the equivalent of half the time you were married. For instance, if your marriage lasted six years, you could receive support for three years. If you were married for 10 or more years, then different rules apply. The factors used to determine spousal support in this latter instance are discussed further below.

Types of support

In California, you can receive spousal support before you receive your divorce judgment. This type is support is known as temporary support. Once the divorce is final, you could have eligibility for post-divorce-judgment support--commonly called "permanent" support. This name is a bit misleading. It's worth noting that your ex is typically not expected to pay alimony indefinitely, and there is an expectation that you'll eventually become self-supporting. 

Temporary support

If you stand to receive temporary spousal support from your ex, here's how that payment is typically calculated:

  • Take 40 percent of your ex's net monthly income.
  • Subtract from that income any money going to child support or child-related expenses.
  • Subtract from that total 50 percent of your net monthly income, if you have a job.

Permanent support

In determining how much an ex-spouse must pay in post-divorce judgment support--and, if the marriage lasted over a decade, how long they must pay it--the court considers a wide variety of factors, including:

  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The needs of the support recipient
  • The marketable skills of the support recipient
  • Any impairment of the support recipient's earning capacity
  • The support payer's ability to pay

Going through a divorce is stressful. But understanding the law can help give you realistic expectations in planning for your future.

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