There was a time when spousal support, aka alimony, was awarded in the vast majority of California divorce cases. Reflecting an evolution of gender roles in society in general and possibly a change in judicial philosophy, the decision on spousal support is now more carefully scrutinized. There are many circumstances the statutory law directs the judge to consider and weigh. Ultimately, the court has wide discretion in concluding what is appropriate in each individual case.

Legal experts indicate the fundamental concept behind spousal support is to minimize any unfair impact on a non-earning or lower earning spouse. Once the initial question of necessity is affirmed, a seminal issue becomes how long should the support last. Over the years, family law judges have increasingly viewed spousal support as temporary and expect the individual receiving payments to work toward and demonstrate the ability to live autonomously. A general rule in California is support will last half as long as a marriage of less than 10 years.

In an effort to standardize the spousal support determination process, spousal support calculators are made available. A dollar amount and length of time is arrived at after incorporating the various statutory factors. The parties can agree to this result or reject and provide additional evidence to support their claim. However, the judge has the final word on the matter.

Spousal support may be awarded temporarily while the divorce is pending but is typically the last issue decided before the divorce order is issued. Property division, child custody and child support are usually decided first. A family law attorney can fully explain the process to a spouse going through a divorce.