Is Alimony Mandatory in California?

15Oct, 22

If you are in the process of filing for a divorce, one stressful question you may be asking yourself is whether you will need to pay alimony to your spouse. Unfortunately, alimony is not so straightforward, and there are several different circumstances the court evaluates in each unique relationship before making the decision to award alimony. By understanding how the court decides if alimony should be mandated, you will be better prepared to know if you will be forced to pay alimony after your divorce.



Spousal support is also known as alimony. It is money (typically paid monthly) that is paid to your spouse after the divorce. This money should be used by your ex-spouse to maintain the same standard of living they had before the divorce.

Alimony is not necessary for every divorcing couple. However, it is typically ordered by the court for couples where one spouse has a much higher income than the other spouse.

Under these specific circumstances, the court may order you to pay alimony:

  1. You were married to your spouse for a long time: The longer the marriage, the more likely the court will be to order alimony. Short marriages typically do not qualify for this order or may only receive temporary alimony. A long marriage is typically considered one that lasts 10 years or more.
  2. Your spouse had a high standard of living with you: If your spouse had a high quality of life while married to you, the court may order you to pay alimony to maintain that same standard of living.
  3. Your spouse has a low earning capability: The court will determine your spouse’s earning capability based on factors such as age, education, and work experience. If your spouse is highly educated, young, and an experienced worker, then their need for alimony is lower. However, if your spouse is older and lacks education or work experience, then the court is more likely to dictate alimony to support them.
  4. The physical and mental well-being of your spouse: A spouse who is injured, physically disabled, or mentally ill will more likely be granted alimony for their inability to make money. Healthy and emotionally stable people are less likely to gain alimony from their spouses.

How to Avoid Paying Alimony

If you are worried about the possibility of having to pay alimony, taking the right precautionary steps before and after the divorce papers have been served can greatly help your case.

A Prenuptial Agreement

A prenuptial agreement, or prenup, is a financial agreement made by a married couple in the event of a divorce. It is never fun to think about divorce while happily married, but if you are at all worried about protecting your assets if the relationship goes south, then a prenup can help you hold on to your assets and your money. That way, in the event of a divorce, your ex-spouse cannot obtain your assets.

Proving Outside Support

Another way to keep from having to pay alimony is by proving to the court that your spouse is living with someone else, being supported by another, or can make their own money to support themselves. This can be done by compiling enough evidence against them with the help of an experienced lawyer.

Be Cooperative Throughout the Divorce

In order to achieve the results you desire, you may have to give up a little bit. Being cooperative with your spouse during the process can make you appear more sympathetic. This could entail being flexible with your division of property agreement and willing to compromise with your spouse to keep the peace.


Q: Can I Be Forced to Sell My House After a Divorce?

A. If you are interested in keeping your home after a divorce, there must be a written agreement between you and your spouse. An experienced family law attorney can help you through this process. One option you may have to avoid a forced home sale is to purchase half of the value of the property from your spouse. In situations where you and your spouse cannot agree, the court may order the house to be sold to create an equal distribution of property.

Q: What Qualifies You for Alimony in California?

A: You may be eligible for alimony if you make significantly less money than your spouse and your quality of life will suffer because of the divorce. In addition, if you are physically or mentally unable to work after the divorce, then alimony may be awarded to better support you through the transition. You are less likely to qualify for alimony if you are young, healthy, and have previous education or work experience.

Q: How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in California?

A: Marriage length can determine the amount of time that a person must pay alimony to their spouse. If a couple has been married for under ten years, it is uncommon for alimony to have to be paid to the ex-spouse forever. Instead, alimony may be a temporary payment. For example, if a couple has been married for six years, the court may dictate that the spouse with the higher income pay their ex-spouse alimony for three years.

Q: What Is the Average Alimony Payment in California?

A: Alimony payments are calculated based on many factors. Some include the difference in income of the two spouses, if there are children involved, and how long the couple has been married. The longer the marriage, the more alimony that can be expected to be paid. For shorter marriages, alimony may not need to be paid or may only be a temporary circumstance.

Q: How Can I Avoid Alimony in a Divorce?

A: Alimony is court ordered but is not mandated for every couple. There are certain factors that the divorce must meet before alimony is given to the spouse. If you are trying to avoid paying alimony, it helps to compromise when constructing the divorce agreement. Making compromises when dividing up your assets can make the court look favorably on you. Having an experienced family attorney on your side will also help you achieve more favorable results.

A New Life Awaits

No matter how good or bad the relationship used to be, divorce means change. Although change can be scary, it is often for the better. Our experienced family attorneys at the Law Offices of Michelanne Hrubic are experts at navigating this new period of your life. They understand that every divorce comes with its own complications and can work tirelessly to lessen the difficulty for you. To ensure that you achieve the best results during your divorce, contact our office today.

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