California Alimony Laws and Guidelines: All About Spousal Support in “CA”

The alimony laws governing spousal support in California is different from what is obtainable in other states. Read further to grasp the peculiarity of the CA alimony law.

All 50 states in America are alimony states, meaning states that have enacted laws permitting a spouse who cannot work full time or with a lower income to request payments from the other spouse to support themselves after a divorce.

What is Alimony?

Also referred to as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance” in Golden State, alimony is the series of payments made by one spouse (the payor spouse) to another (the supported or payee spouse) after the divorce.

Before the alimony payments commence, there has to be a written order or agreement which requires the payor to support the payee with a stipulated amount of money.

This agreement eliminates any disputes in the future about why the payment was made or when it’s not made.

Type of Alimony Laws Practiced in CA

types of alimony

Types of alimony in California

In California, as in many other states, there are two types of alimony that are commonly awarded in divorces, temporary and permanent. CA also permits “reimbursement support,” which is a distinct type of spousal support. California Family Code Section 4320, et seq.

Temporary Spousal Support in California

Temporary alimony is a payment made by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse. It’s called “temporary” because it’s supposed to help the lower-earning spouse financially throughout the divorce process, and it’ll terminate once a permanent alimony award is in place.

The “Santa Clara Guideline” formula can be used to calculate temporary alimony in California. It has been implemented in different alimony calculator software packages that create a support figure automatically based on certain factors like the spouses’ incomes, health insurance deductions, and other earnings-related considerations.

The “Alameda Guideline” formula has been accepted by Alameda and Contra Costa counties. According to the guideline, the paying spouse’s support should be at least 40% of his or her net monthly income, decreased by one-half of the receiving spouse’s net monthly income. If there is a child support issue, spousal support is computed after child support.

Temporary assistance is intended to help a lower-earning spouse afford living expenses while the divorce is being finalized. The courts normally compute the amount of support using the California child support standards rather than the spousal support criteria stated below, which makes this sort of support unique.

Permanent Spousal Support in CA

After the divorce is finalized, this type of alimony can be awarded. It’s vital to remember that the term “permanent” does not always imply “for life.” Permanent spousal support is uncommon in CA, and it’s usually reserved for spouses who are divorcing after a long-term marriage (ten years or more). (CA FAM §4336.)

It may be paid for up to half of the marriage length for marriages lasting less than ten years. (An eight-year marriage, for example, would take four years.) Spousal support cannot be eliminated in marriages lasting 10 years or longer, although it can be reduced to zero.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support in California

In California, one spouse who helped finance another’s education or career advancement program during the marriage can receive reimbursement support to recuperate the cash spent during the marriage.

The premise behind financial support is that if a couple works together to allow one of them to pursue a higher degree, both of them will profit from the accomplishments made during the marriage. After a divorce, only the spouse with the higher education benefits, which the court recognizes may not be fair to the other spouse.

Who Pays Alimony in California?

In California alimony law, the spouse that makes most of the money will share that income with the other spouse. The idea behind who pays for alimony is to considerably level up the living standard of the dependent spouse to what it was while the marriage was on.

Regarding the sex that pays, alimony in Golden State is gender-neutral, meaning either spouse can request support from the other. As long as the alimony can be provided to the requesting spouse, then it will most likely be granted.

So a husband can receive alimony from a wife in California if the above conditions are met.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last in CA?

How Long To Pay Alimony

The judge will decide how long alimony payment should last in California

The duration to pay alimony in California can differ depending on the individual judge and circumstances. As provided by the alimony laws of CA, rehabilitative and permanent support stops if either spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries.

The 10-Year Alimony Rule in California

A 10-year rule is used in California when granting spousal support. The 10-year rule indicates that the courts will only award permanent spousal support to marriages that have lasted for 10 years or more. Alimony laws in California follow a 10-year rule where the courts will only award permanent spousal support to marriages that have lasted for 10 years or more.

From a policy aspect, this provision is in place to deter marriage for the purpose of obtaining spousal support in the event of a divorce. Courts, on the whole, dislike awarding permanent spousal maintenance. Instead, the courts in California urge former spouses to become self-sufficient. When a partner is very old or disabled, there is an exception.

How to Collect Spousal Support Arrears in California

When it comes to collecting spousal support in California, you have a few choices if your ex-spouse has failed to make alimony payments as ordered by the court. Debts for spousal support are frequently given priority among debtors under US law.

Factors That Influence Alimony in California

The average amount payable as spousal support in California after divorce is determined by various factors. But the major factor you have to understand is “the standard of living of the marriage.”

To determine the final amounts for rehabilitative and permanent support in CA, the courts in CA take into consideration the income of the spouses, plus other factors like:

  • earning capacity of each spouse.
  • the ability of the paying spouse to pay, considering assets, the standard of living, earning capacity, as well as earned and unearned income.
  • the extent of contribution the supported spouse gave to the other’s educational pursuit or professional license during the marriage
  • how long the marriage lasted
  • the needs of each spouse
  • the assets and debts of each spouse including separate property
  • each party’s tax consequences
  • the ability of the supported spouse to gain employment without interfering with their children’s care
  • each spouse’s health and age
  • each party’s balance of hardships
  • whether there is a documented history of domestic violence against the children or either party
  • will the dependent spouse be self-supporting within a reasonable period
  • any criminal conviction of an abusive spouse
  • any other factors which the court wishes to consider

This is the main measure the court uses to determine the amount to be paid in Golden State. The principle behind the standard of living of the marriage is that after the marriage breakup, both spouses should continue living within the same standard they lived while the marriage lasted.

How Alimony is Calculated in CA

How Alimony is Calculated

How Alimony is Calculated in California

The amount to be paid as spousal support in California is calculated after considering the above-stated factors. Whichever option is adopted it is reflected in the Alimony Calculator

But to be explicit about how to calculate spousal support in CA, you may need to consult your spousal support attorney.

The Dissomaster™ Program for Alimony in California

Almost all family law experts in California use the DissoMaster™ program to calculate guideline child and spousal support payments. It has been utilized in California courts for more than 20 years.

The DissoMaster™ program (owned by is one of the few that has been approved by the California Judicial Council for use in calculating support in the state. Attorneys created the DissoMaster™ program to adhere to the California Family Law Code’s standards.

The DissoMaster™ program calculates spousal support based on the California Family Law Code which states an algebraic formula that requires the use of net income to determine the support amount.

The DissoMaster™ program calculator is based on the California Family Law Code 4055 which outlines an algebraic formula for calculating child support payments as follows:

CS = K (HN – (H%) (TN)

>>> California Spousal Support Calculator

Importance of Using a Skilled California Spousal Support Attorney

If you’re getting a divorce in California and need to negotiate or re-negotiate spousal support, you’ve definitely got a lot of questions and want to seek competent legal guidance. Though state Supreme Courts have supported lifetime spousal support, your circumstances may or may not fulfill the requirements. CA courts may judge your case differently based on the merits of you and your previous spouse. There are so many variables to consider.

If you want to get spousal support for the rest of your life or if you want to fight against it in California, an expert divorce lawyer can help. Depending on the objective and the desire of the adversary attorney to bargain in good faith, you’ll need attorneys that are both empathetic and strong.

For the convenience of our members, we have an up-to-date directory of California divorce and spousal support attorneys who can help with a variety of issues. For legal advice and representation on spousal support that is powerful and well-informed.

Click Here to Get our Free Iowa Alimony recommendation.

FAQ About California Alimony Laws

Here are Frequently Asked Questions about spousal support laws in CA:

Can a Husband get Alimony in CA?

Yes. In California, alimony payment is gender-neutral, meaning the sex that pays or receives is not the main determinant, but other factors as stated above. For details click here.

Who Qualifies for Alimony in California?

Just as either spouse can pay or receive, the party that qualifies to receive spousal support is the dependent party while the marriage lasted. This means that in CA, the spouse that had lesser or no income when the marriage was on is also the one qualified to receive alimony. Click here for details

How Long do you have to be Married to get Alimony in CA?

To understand how long alimony lasts in California, you have to take into consideration how long the marriage lasted.

However, bear in mind that there is no limit to the duration you can pay or receive alimony for marriages that lasted 10-20 years or more. Any marriage that lasted below 20 years will not pay nor receive alimony that exceeds 50% of the duration of the marriage.

Is Alimony Tax Deductible in California?

Following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which altered the link between alimony and taxes dramatically in California and all over the US, alimony payments are no longer tax deductible for the payer and are no longer recognized as income for the recipient spouse as of January 1, 2019.

Is Alimony Mandatory in Golden State?

Alimony is mandatory in California as long as one of the spouses earns or owns assets that can be relied upon to support the other spouse after the marriage breaks down.

Can Alimony be increased in California?

Alimony amount or duration can be increased or decreased due to changes in the financial circumstances of the parties in different ways, including:

  • an increase or decrease in the income of the alimony recipient
  • if it’s determined that the original alimony awarded is inadequate
  •  loss to the alimony recipient’s financial assets
  • an increase in the justified expenses of the alimony recipient
  • when the financial condition of the receiving spouse fails to improve as originally expected

Can you go to Jail for Not Paying Spousal Support in CA?

Technically, you will not be jailed for not paying alimony in California. While there are varying consequences for not paying alimony, you can still end up in jail as a result. Here is how.

If it’s a California court-ordered spousal support that you refuse to pay, it means you are in violation of a court order meaning you can be prosecuted for being in contempt of court if contempt proceedings are brought up against you. This could attract a jail term in CA}.

How to Modify Spousal Support in CA?

How to Avoid spousal support

How to Avoid spousal support in California

When necessary, California law allows for a spousal support modification. When it comes to alimony, courts in CA usually try to do their best to create judgments that are fair and effective in the long run. Nevertheless, conditions change over time, and these changes may compel a revision or modification of the initial order.

When filing for a spousal support modification in California, keep in mind that the courts will only entertain the motion if there has been a significant and long-term change in circumstances. A brief problem is unlikely to be significant enough to warrant a revision in the initial alimony ruling. Likewise, dissatisfaction with the support order is not a valid reason for a revision in CA.

The following are some of the most common reasons for requesting an alimony modification in California:

  • Retirement
  • Remarriage
  • Relocation
  • Changes in income or employment
  • Birth of a new child
  • Health changes, including disability
  • A new dependent

How to Avoid or End Spousal Support in California

In Golden State, the spouse paying the alimony can successfully avoid or stop the alimony payment if he/she is able to prove any or all of the following points:

  • that the dependent spouse is guilty of infidelity
  • the spouse proves that he has no source of income
  • the spouse remarries and has to take care of the new spouse however, he/she will continue paying the child support for children if any
  • if the spouse is disabled and unable to earn a living

California Resource

- California Child Adoption Guidelines
- California Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- California Child Support Guidelines
- California Divorce Guidelines
- California Marital Property Guidelines
- California Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check California Child Support Payment History

Alimony Laws in all 50 States

A Alabama  |  AlaskaArizonaArkansas
C CaliforniaColoradoConnecticut
D-H DelawareFloridaGeorgiaHawaii
I IdahoIllinoisIndianaIowa
K-L KansasKentuckyLouisiana
M MaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMissouriMontana
NebraskaNevadaNew HampshireNew JerseyNew MexicoNew YorkNorth CarolinaNorth Dakota
P-S  PennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
T-U  TennesseeTexasUtah
V-W  VermontVirginiaWashingtonWest VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.