Spousal Support


California law provides that spouses are entitled to receive "spousal support", i.e. alimony, from each other based on many factors, the most important of which are the respective income of both parties (or the lack thereof), the duration of the marriage, and the marital lifestyle. Spousal support is the term for "alimony" under California law. No matter what you call it, spousal support is money that one spouse pays to help support the other after a Dissolution has been filed.


The spousal support ordered during the pendency (after commencement but before final settlement and/or trial) of a dissolution is termed "temporary spousal support" and is meant to maintain the "status quo" for the supported spouse. "Temporary spousal support" may be ordered by the Court at any time after a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed until the case has been resolved, either by settlement or at trial.

"Permanent spousal support" does not mean spousal support that lasts forever. It refers to the spousal support payable after the case has been resolved by settlement or at trial. Unless the parties agree in writing otherwise, all aspects of permanent support are modifiable.


While Temporary Spousal Support is intended to maintain the "status-quo", permanent spousal support is based on statutory factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • The marketable skills of the supported spouse
  • The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, career position, or a license by the supporting party
  • The obligations and assets, including separate property, of each party
  • The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in custody of the party
  • The age and health of the parties

The Court can also consider documented evidence of any history of "domestic violence" (as defined herein above) between the parties, including but not limited to:

  • Consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party
  • Consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party

The amount of spousal support is a function of the parties' incomes. This includes income for employment, investment, and all other sources. The definition of income is set forth in Section 4058 of the California Family Code and is interpreted broadly. In other words, the exclusions from the definition of income are few and far between.


If you and your spouse cannot agree regarding the payment of spousal support, then the Court will decide whether spousal support should be paid, who will pay it, how much it will be and for what duration of time. However, the Court does not order spousal support in all cases. Generally speaking, spousal support is based upon the requesting party's "need" and the paying spouses "ability to pay". Both parties' respective income is also taken into consideration when calculating and ordering spousal support.

Often, the length of time you were married will help the court decide, the amount and duration of the "spousal support" payments. A general rule of thumb in California is that a marriage of over ten years (i.e., a marriage of long duration) mandates payment of "spousal support" until the remarriage of the supported spouse and/or the death of either party; while a supported party married for less than ten years (not a marriage of long duration) would receive spousal support generally for one-half of the term of the marriage.


It is public policy and the goal of the State of California that a supported spouse becomes self-supporting as soon as possible. As such, often at the time of the hearing on support issues or in all times that a final Judgment of Dissolution is entered by the Court, the supported spouse is provided with an explicit "warning/advance notice", known as a "Gavron warning". The Gavron warning puts the supported spouse on notice that he/she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his/her own support needs (taking into account the various statutory factors which are considered by the Court in making a permanent support order) and that they are expected to become self-supporting by a date certain, at which point their support could be reduced or terminated based upon their lack of efforts to become self-supporting (See In re Marriage of Gavron, (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 705, 250 Cal.Rptr. 148).

However, if one spouse is middle-aged or older and has never worked outside the home, the Court might decide that his/her chances of finding a job are limited. Then, this spouse may receive spousal support for a longer period of time or until he/she remarries or dies. On the other hand, if one spouse is young and has never worked outside the home, the Court might say this spouse should receive spousal support for a short period of time or until he or she can become self-supporting or receives training for a job. If both you and your spouse have approximately equal incomes, it is likely that the Court might decide that neither of you is entitled to receive spousal support from the other.

There are many other factors which the Court considers in deciding and awarding spousal support to a spouse. The Court will also consider both spouses' financial position in terms of the division of community property, as well as their respective separate property, debts, health and the marital standard of living. The Court will also will consider the special needs of each party, whether a party has primary custody of the minor children of the marriage, the amount of money each party can or is expected to earn, and the length of time it will take an unemployed spouse to train for and/or secure a job.


Our law office is located in Santa Clarita, serving communities in Saugus, Canyon Country, Valencia, Newhall, and more. If you have any questions regarding divorce, child custody disputes, child support requests, or modification of a child support order, or if you need assistance with establishing or modifying spousal support, please call family law attorney Eric Martinelli with the Martinelli Law Group at (888) 809-4713 for a free consultation.