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How does spousal support work in California?

You may have to pay spousal support in California if you earn more than your spouse. If you earn less and think you cannot support yourself after divorce, you can request spousal support from the court. 

Review the California legal guidelines that determine spousal support, often referred to as alimony.

Calculating spousal support

The spousal support order in your case will typically last half as long as your marriage lasted. However, you may receive or have to pay support for longer if your marriage lasted longer than a decade. In either case, the judge will review factors that include each person’s: 

  • Level of formal education 
  • Ability to earn enough income to be self-supporting now and in the future 
  • Contributions to the marriage, including both income and nonfinancial contributions like child care 
  • History of domestic abuse 
  • Standard of living during the marriage 
  • Age 
  • Physical and mental health 

While these guidelines apply to spousal support after the court finalizes your divorce, California also allows for temporary support from the separation date until the divorce date. Each county maintains its own temporary spousal support guidelines.

The spousal support process

If you cannot support yourself after divorce, you can submit Form FL-300 with your divorce petition or your response to your spouse’s divorce petition. Unless you and your spouse come up with a spousal support agreement outside of court, the judge will make a determination during your divorce hearing. 

You and your spouse must provide comprehensive financial information to aid in the spousal support determination. These details also inform property division in California divorces.