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How Long Do You Have To Pay Alimony in California?

Updated: Nov 22

A Quick Guide To Paying And Getting Alimony In California

One spouse makes alimony payments to the other after divorce or while a divorce case is pending, as per court order or the couple's agreement. States refer to alimony in various ways, such as spousal support and maintenance, although they all generally mean the same thing.


One spouse may be ordered by the court to pay alimony (also known as spousal support) to the other when a married couple decides to separate or get a divorce in California legally.


That said, alimony is often tied to the messy aspects of divorce. You could be paid too little, compelled to pay too much, or subjected to penalties.

Here's a quick summary of alimony payments and how our prescreened California family law attorneys handle them:


How To Calculate Alimony In California

How Long Will Alimony Payments Last?

The length of spousal maintenance is up to the judge's discretion. However, as a general rule, spousal support will only be paid for the first half of a marriage that lasts fewer than ten years. The court may not impose a time limit on longer unions.

How To Calculate Alimony In California?


If determined that you financially relied on your spouse during the marriage, the judge may order your spouse to pay you alimony. If all of the following factors apply, you are considered a "dependent":

  • You needed the financial support of your spouse.

  • You don't have enough assets, including marital assets, to meet your demands.

  • You cannot support yourself through work or a job, or you are unable to work because you are taking care of a kid whose condition prevents you from working.

There are numerous criteria a judge will consider when determining whether to grant you alimony and how much you will receive, even if you can demonstrate that you are "the dependent party."

That said, calculating alimony could be difficult if you don't know what goes into it. A California family lawyer will know how to consider the factors that go into the amount of alimony you should receive or pay.


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How Alimony Works In California?


Alimony is generally paid regularly, usually in installments of a specified sum per month. However, sometimes a judge will order one spouse to give the other spouse maintenance in a lump sum in cash or a transfer of assets.


The court cannot reverse the lump-sum awarded alimony. However, unless the initial court order clearly stated that periodic alimony payments were "nonmodifiable," you may often seek the court to modify or terminate them. You will need to persuade the judge that the modification or termination of maintenance is necessary due to a material change in your or your spouse's circumstances, such as the retirement of the paying spouse or the beginning of a supported spouse's new lucrative career.

Some situations, like when the supported spouse marries again or both spouses pass away, result in the automatic termination of periodic alimony. Other specific conditions, such as when the supported spouse begins living with another partner, may cause alimony to stop or justify a reduction in payments, depending on the rules in your state, if they materially impact the recipient's need for support.

When you file for divorce, you often include a request for spousal support in your first paperwork. Next, you will need to submit a formal motion (request) asking a court to decide for you if you and your spouse cannot agree on the matter at some time during the procedure. Finally, the court will set a hearing so both parties can present their arguments and supporting documentation. The judge will make a ruling after considering all the arguments and evidence.

A prescreened California divorce lawyer can help you with the specifics of alimony, how it works, and how you should approach it legally.

What Are The Penalties To Missed Alimony Payments?

If you fail to make court-ordered spousal support payments on time, you will be charged interest at 10% per year on the outstanding balance. The addition of interest charges is mandated by law and cannot be stopped by a judge.


You may be found in contempt of court if you intentionally refuse to pay your ex-spouse spousal support while having the financial resources to do so. Even though jail time is typically viewed as a last-resort enforcement measure, this could result in it.


If the person owing spousal support also owes child support due to the divorce settlement, the local child support agency (LCSA) may become engaged in collecting spousal support.


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