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How is alimony decided in California courts?

There was once a time in American history where many married couples lived comfortably with one income source. Typically, the husband would work full-time and his salary would be sufficient to pay for all of the couple's needs. In that scenario, the wife would usually remain at home throughout the day and take care of the children and other household duties. Divorce under those circumstances usually proved disastrous for stay-at-home moms with few marketable professional skills.

Alimony, also referred to sometimes as spousal support or maintenance, was a way that lawmakers felt would provide some divorced spouses an opportunity to learn new skills and transition to single life.

California still recognizes the need for alimony; however, the court has broad discretion to consider whether to award or deny spousal support. There is never any guarantee that the court will award either party spousal support. The court also has wide latitude in determining the amount and duration of any alimony award.

Generally, the court will look at the length of the marriage and the standard of living the couple enjoyed while they were together. Then it will compare that with each spouse's ability to maintain a similar lifestyle.

In order to determine a fair and reasonable alimony, a court may look at whether a spouse helped contribute to the education or training of the other spouse. The tax liabilities of each spouse will also be scrutinized. The ability of each spouse to earn a living based on his or her marketable skills will also come under review. If the court does award alimony to one party, it will be interested in determining how long the recipient will require to gain marketable skills and become support self-supporting.

As you can see, there are a wide range of factors a court must consider when determining alimony issues. If you are currently contemplating divorce, you should know that your California family law attorney can help you evaluate the circumstances of your case and assist you in determining a favorable legal strategy. Regardless of whether you are a stay-at-home parent with no education or the family's primary breadwinner, understanding your potential risks and advantages can help you considerably throughout your divorce process.

Source: Official California Legislative Information, "Family Code Section 4320-4326" Dec. 25, 2014

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