In California, alimony is also called spousal support, and it represents court-ordered payments a divorced spouse pays to a former spouse or domestic partner. In the case of a domestic partner, these payments are referred to as domestic partner support rather than spousal support. In either situation, this type of payment provides financial support to a spouse who depended on a former spouse for basic needs and cannot otherwise support themselves on their own.

There are two types of spousal support: temporary spousal support and long-term spousal support. Both are complicated legal issues. Many times, an alimony lawyer or family law facilitator is necessary to help individuals understand the intricacies of spousal and domestic support. An alimony attorney is a great resource for anyone who needs help calculating alimony support payment amounts, figuring out how long alimony payments should last, understanding how alimony can affect taxes, and preparing court forms.

California Alimony Laws 2023

Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support is the support that is ordered to be paid while divorce proceedings are ongoing. Because divorces can take months or even longer, temporary support serves to provide support for the spouse with a lower income until the divorce is final.

Long-Term Spousal Support

Long-term spousal support, or permanent spousal support, is paid as a result of a court order established at the time the divorce is final. Depending on many factors, this type of spousal support could be paid indefinitely. Events that can affect the longevity of spousal support payments include the following:

  • The supported spouse remarries.
  • The supported spouse is cohabiting with another individual who provides financial support to them.
  • The supported spouse or the paying spouse passes away.
  • The paying spouse can no longer afford to pay support payments (in this case, a modification is required).

When to Hire a Lawyer

According to the California Courts Self-Help Guide, it can be useful to hire a lawyer to either assist you with your entire spousal support case or just part of your case. For instance, a lawyer can help someone write an agreement for spousal support and advise their client about the options they have and the potential outcomes of their case but not represent them further in their legal proceedings. Many people who approach family law seeking assistance with their spousal support case retain a lawyer for the duration of their case due to the complexities of their situation. Having a lawyer by your side to see your case through to completion can make the process faster, more amicable, and less stressful.

Hiring a lawyer can be helpful under the following circumstances:

  • Your case is complicated.
  • The opposing side has hired a lawyer.
  • You prefer a confidential and private client-attorney relationship.
  • You would like to explore the options regarding strategies for your case.
  • You would like someone to negotiate on your behalf with the other side.
  • You are concerned that the other side will try to take advantage of the situation or not play fair.
  • Your case requires a jury trial.
  • It is difficult for you to view your case objectively because you are too emotionally involved in the situation.

Alimony and Taxes 2023

Depending on when the order was established by the court, spousal support taxes may or may not be taxable. Also, federal and state income tax laws differ. For federal taxes on alimony payments established after January 1, 2019, the paying spouse cannot deduct payments on federal income tax forms, and the supported spouse does not report the payments as income. However, state income tax law dictates that for orders established at any time and federal tax law for orders established before December 31, 2018, spousal support payers can deduct spousal support payments from their state tax returns. It also requires recipients of spousal support to report support as income. Domestic partner support laws that relate to taxes are even more complicated at the federal level, but they are treated the same under California state laws.


Q: How Long Does an Ex-Spouse Have to Pay Alimony in California?

A: While the duration of alimony payments can vary among cases due to factors that affect the length of time an individual has to pay support, California courts typically order support payments for half the time of the marriage if the marriage lasted less than ten years. If the marriage lasted longer than ten years, spousal support could go on indefinitely.

Q: How Much Alimony Can a Wife Get in California?

A: A supported spouse, which may not necessarily be the wife, is oftentimes awarded up to 40% of the paying spouse’s income minus one-half of the supported spouse’s income. This is the average maximum amount, though, and it is not a definitive amount for all cases. The amount of alimony ordered by the court is determined by weighing a number of factors, including each party’s income, expenses, ability to work, and other relevant factors.

Q: What Disqualifies You From Alimony in California?

A: Court-ordered alimony payments are no longer legally required if the supported spouse remarries or moves in with someone who provides financial support. No court proceedings are necessary, and in these cases, the paying spouse can simply cease making payments. However, if wages are being garnished, an action by the court is required to stop the automatic payments. If the supported spouse’s income increases to the point that financial support is no longer needed, the paying spouse can request a modification of the court order, submitting proof that the other party no longer needs support.

Q: Does Child Support Count Toward Spousal Support in California?

A: Child support and spousal support are two separate orders. There are instances when both child support and spousal support are required by the court. However, the amount of spousal support payments is not calculated until after child support payments are calculated. Therefore, spousal support is calculated based on income minus/plus child support payments. That means the final court-ordered amount of spousal support may not be of significant value. It still must be paid, though.

Getting Professional Legal Advice

If you have more questions about alimony laws in California, the legal team at the Law Offices of Schwartz & Godbey is knowledgeable on state and federal spousal support laws and can advise you according to your specific situation. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz & Godbey to schedule a consultation regarding your spousal support case today.