When Does Alimony Terminate in California?

When Does Alimony Terminate in California?

When someone is awarded or ordered to pay alimony during a California divorce, it’s important to know how this obligation works and when it will end. So, when does alimony terminate in California?

California Alimony

When a couple is getting divorced, one or both parties may want to know if alimony (spousal maintenance) will be an issue. The answer will depend on the parties and the unique facts of their case.

 Contrary to what some believe, alimony is not automatically awarded in all California divorce cases. A California divorce court has the discretion to award spousal support when it determines that doing so is appropriate.

To decide on spousal maintenance, a California divorce court will look at factors such as:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The relative age, health, and earning capacity of the parties
  • The couple’s standard of living
  • Career and educational decisions made during the marriage (e.g., did one person sacrifice advancement or education to benefit the other’s career?)
  • Assets and liabilities of each party, including separate property
  • Ability to pay
  • If a parent is caring for minor children
  • Domestic violence history in the marriage
  • Any other factor the court determines to be just and equitable

In some cases, the concept of spousal support can become highly contentious. This can be especially true when one party believes the other is to blame for the marriage ending or that they may be required to pay the other indefinitely.

Generally, California courts don’t favor permanent spousal maintenance. However, it is possible, depending on the circumstances, that one partner may be ordered to pay long-term alimony. These awards may occur when a couple has been married for several years (more than 10), and one spouse was the primary wage earner throughout the relationship.

In many instances, spousal support is viewed as a temporary measure for a spouse to have while adjusting to becoming financially independent. In these situations, a court may order alimony for a set period of time.

The 10-Year Rule

Generally, if a couple has been married less than ten years, a reasonable award of spousal support will be half the length of the marriage. However, the court can set an indefinite support period for marriages over ten years.

Under California law, “the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.”

Ending Alimony

There can be circumstances when an obligated party may return to court and seek a reduction or end of spousal support. This generally will occur under the following circumstances:

  • When a support order ends by agreement
  • When the court ends payments
  • The supported party remarries
  • Death

Spousal support orders may also be modified when there is a change in circumstances, such as:

  • Retirement
  • Permanent reduction in income of the obligated party
  • Disability or Serious illness
  • Unemployment
  • Cohabitation with another adult

Spousal support can be a complicated issue, and the court will base its decision on evidence provided by the parties. If you believe spousal support may be an issue in your California divorce, you should contact an experienced California divorce attorney to help you evaluate your case.

Contact a California Divorce Attorney

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California divorce attorneys who can answer your questions about alimony and other matters. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website.



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