Skip Navigation
Close Btn

Spousal Support in California: An Overview of the Law

by Law Offices of David M. Lederman
Jul 31, 2023

Spousal support is popularly known as ‘alimony.’ In California, this is financial assistance for the spouse who needs it during the divorce process and for some time after the marriage is dissolved.

There are two main kinds of spousal support in California: temporary and long-term. The rules are different, and judges may order one spouse to pay another for a variety of reasons and varying periods. 

If you are seeking insight on spousal support in California, talk with an experienced Divorce lawyer to get your questions answered today.

Understanding Temporary Spousal Support in California

While the divorce process is underway, judges may order one spouse to pay temporary spousal support. Typically, this support continues until the divorce is finalized.

However, judges may grant requests to change or modify support, provided there is a good reason. (Cal. Fam. Code § 3603 (2022).)

Long-Term Spousal Support: What You Need to Know in California

When a final judgment is issued for the dissolution of a marriage, the judge may order one spouse to pay long-term support to the other spouse. This may be for a specific amount and period considered fair and reasonable.

The judge may also warn recipients that they should seek to become self-supporting. Due to this warning, long-term spousal support is frequently called “rehabilitative alimony.” Judges may include provisions, such as vocational evaluations, to assess the spouse’s ability to find a job that provides a similar standard of living. There may also be certain conditions that end support, such as a requirement to attend vocational training or college. Further, there may be a schedule for alimony step-downs, with decreasing support to encourage recipients to become self-sufficient.

Finally, long-term spousal support often comes with a ‘reservation of jurisdiction.’ This reservation enables a judge to make appropriate changes or modifications if unexpected circumstances occur. (Cal. Fam. Code §§ 4330, 4331, 4334 (2022).)

Understanding Reimbursement Alimony

One popular misconception about spousal support is the term, ‘reimbursement alimony.’ 

This does not exist, yet the myth persists. It may be a common myth due to a misinterpretation of California’s community property laws. California is one of the states that follow community property laws. Under California laws, assets and debts acquired during a marriage belong equally and must be divided equally. There are exceptions for what is called “separate property.” One example is property owned by one spouse before the marriage.

Reimbursement is intended to compensate a spouse who made contributions to the other spouse’s education or training, which greatly enhanced their earning ability.

In California divorce law, a judge considers a couple’s community estate when dividing community property. Reimbursement does not refer to this dollar amount going directly to one spouse. (Cal. Fam. C § 2641 (2022).)

Calculating Temporary Spousal Support in California

While several factors come into play, courts across California often use one formula to calculate temporary alimony. The common formula is 40% of the high earner’s net monthly income minus 50% of the low earner’s net monthly income. 

For instance, if Blair earns $10,000 a month and Blake earns $3,000 a month, temporary support would be $2,500 a month. This is based on $4,000 (40% of $10,000); $1,500 (50% of $3000; $4,000 – $1,500 = $2,500.)

While the formula appears relatively straightforward, it is not always the deciding ruling. It is important to realize that judges have discretion. They may award different amounts of support based on the unique circumstances of each case.

Evaluating Long-Term Spousal Support

Long-term support is based on several circumstances, and California does not rely on a calculator or formula to determine long-term spousal support.

Among the circumstances, judges evaluate the needs of each spouse, their ability to earn enough to maintain their standard of living, the job market, and how much time is needed to care for the children. Judges also evaluate elements such as the supporting spouse’s ability to pay alimony, the length of the marriage, the spouses’ ages and health, the length of the marriage, and several other factors. 

Talk to an Aggressive California Divorce Attorney

If you and your ex-spouse are working out terms for spousal support, the Law Offices of David M. Lederman is here to help. Call 925-522-8889 or send an email to schedule a consultation. 


Contact The Law Offices of David M. Lederman for Help Navigating Family Law Issues 

Divorce and family law issues can be complex and stressful, which is why having strong representation is important. It is crucial to contact an experienced family law firm at the first sign of a family law dispute. The sooner we start working on your case, the sooner you can move on with your life. Call 925-522-8889 or send us a message to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers. 

Schedule a Call