When a couple is married, they generally work to support each other. This support can come in different forms, from emotional to financial and everything in between. However, when a couple decides to divorce, this support system is suddenly gone. Instead of being able to rely on their partner, divorced spouses must handle things on their own. When it comes to finances, however, the courts will not allow one spouse to be completely abandoned by the other.
Instead, the courts will award spousal support -- often called alimony -- to a spouse who needs financial support. This support is meant to help a spouse maintain the standard of living that the couple had during their marriage. In particular, it helps spouses who may have made less money during the marriage or who gave up a career to stay at home or to raise children.
In order to determine the amount and duration of spousal support, California courts will look at a variety of factors. One factor is the length of the marriage. If the marriage was 10 or more years long, then the court is not required to set an end date for the alimony. In shorter marriages, the courts have discretion to determine how long a spouse has to pay spousal support. However, it must be a reasonable length of time, which is usually about half as long as the marriage itself.
Another factor considered by the courts is the spouses' ability to support themselves. The court will look at the person's employment history, educational training and marketable skills. It will determine if the job market will support those skills and what the person's earning capacity should be.
Determining the amount of spousal support a person should receive or pay can be complex. There are a lot of factors to look at. But, in some cases, the parties may be able to come to an agreement on their own.
Source: courts.ca.gov, "Spousal/Partner Support," Accessed May 18, 2015