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Featured / 1.31.2024

How California Family Law Courts Determine Alimony

There is nothing unusual about a married couple that consists of one person bringing in the majority or all of the income and the other spouse staying at home or pursuing other avenues of entertainment. While this can keep income straightforward during the marriage, it can form a complication during a divorce since alimony or spousal support will likely be necessary. After all, without the breadwinner, the other spouse will not be able to live comfortably or maintain his or her standard of living.Divorcing spouses can decide on how to set monthly alimony payments on their own. This is, however, not typical and represents an ideal situation in an uncontested divorce. For most couples in California, especially those with highly valued marital assets, a family law court will need to make the final decision for determining alimony. But how is this done?


The primary factor a family law court uses to set spousal support or spousal maintenance is the actual duration of the marriage. In general, the longer a marriage lasted, the greater amount of alimony the dependent spouse will be rewarded. The duration of the alimony itself will also be altered by the duration of the marriage. A brief marriage may only be granted temporarily alimony that lasts for a few months; a marriage that lasted for decades could be assigned permanent alimony that only ends after one of the spouses pass away or the receiver remarries.

Other important factors the family law court will weigh include:

  • Health: The court will consider the overall health of each spouse. An aged, unhealthy, or terminally ill spouse will find it difficult to support themselves, and will likely receive more alimony.
  • Educational support: If the spouse that provided the majority of the income put some of that towards furthering the education of the other spouse, alimony payments might be kept at a minimum, as it implies the receiving spouse should be able to more easily complete an education or find gainful employment.
  • Debts and other obligations: Each spouse will have financial needs that cannot be ignored, such as debts to banks and creditors. An alimony plan will not be created that adds undue duress on these obligations.
  • Incomes: Of course, the court will review the incomes of each spouse, usually dating back at least two years. This will provide the groundwork for the alimony decision when other factors are not as pressing.
  • Asset division: Sometimes alimony is offset by how the marital assets were divided. For example, a spouse that receives the marital home but makes no income might receive minimal alimony due to the inherent value and convenience of keeping the home.
  • Domestic violence: California family law courts can penalize a spouse convicted of domestic violence by increasing alimony amounts paid to the abused spouse, or decreasing how much the abused spouse pays. This is, in a way, a form of restitution.


Ready to explore your alimony options in your divorce? Stolar Law Group can provide you with Beverly Hills divorce attorneys that understand and appreciate you and your unique situation. You will see that in everything we do, our clients’ best interests are kept in focus.

Call 424-421-0009 to schedule a consultation.

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