If a couple gets a divorce in California and one person makes significantly more money than the other, that person may be required to pay alimony to the other. This is separate from the process of property division and from child support. While alimony is determined on an individual basis according to the particular circumstances of the case, there are a few general points to keep in mind.
Why alimony is required
Spousal support may be ordered to help a person maintain a standard of living similar to what they had during the divorce. It may be an acknowledgement that a spouse who did not work outside the home may have made substantial contributions to the household and the other spouse’s ability to pursue a career. In turn, the nonworking spouse gave up their own access to earning power and other benefits, such as putting money toward retirement. Spousal support may be one way to address this disparity.
How alimony is determined
While each state, generally, has specific guidelines regarding how child support is determined, courts have more flexibility to determine alimony. There are a number of factors that may be taken into account, including the needs of each spouse, how long it will take the recipient spouse to become self-supporting and how long the marriage lasted. In marriages of a shorter duration, alimony may only be paid for a limited time. Usually, spousal support ends if the recipient gets married. A court may include a provision in which the recipient continues to get payments even if the payer dies. These payments may be made from the estate or from insurance.
Enforcing alimony payments
Alimony may be awarded by a court order. If an ex-spouse fails to pay, the other spouse could start a contempt proceeding. However, there are fewer mechanisms to enforce payment than there are for child support.
Spousal support, property division and other elements of divorce may be negotiated by divorcing individuals with the assistance of their attorneys. If negotiations are unsuccessful or not possible, a court may make these determinations.