How Long Does an Ex-Husband Have to Pay Alimony in California?


When couples file for divorce in California, the court may order one party to pay spousal support payments. While each marriage is unique, spousal support payments are based upon many factors, including current incomes, assets, debts, each person’s education level, and current and future earning capacity.

While either spouse can request spousal support, it is primarily the ex-husband that has to pay alimony in California. This is due to a more significant disparity in financial earnings, one spouse taking on more household and child-rearing duties, and other factors.

So how long does the ex-husband have to pay alimony in California? This article will outline what impacts spousal support and the determining factors that influence the amount and duration of spousal support the judge grants.

What Impacts Spousal Support in California?

Whether or not a spouse will be awarded spousal support in California is entirely up to the court. If an ex-husband must pay alimony after the divorce, the court will most likely consider the following factors.

  • How long you and your spouse have been married
  • The age, health, and earning ability of each party
  • What is the standard of living that you maintained and enjoyed as a married couple
  • Whether or not the person seeking alimony sacrificed their career to support their spouse’s career goals
  • The ability of the payee to maintain spousal support
  • Each party’s financial assets and liabilities
  • Whether the person requesting spousal support can maintain proper employment without harming the best interests of the children
  • If there is evidence of domestic violence
  • Any other contributing factor the court deems just and equitable

Divorce attorneys experienced in California divorce can help you negotiate an arrangement with your spouse to meet immediate and foreseeable financial needs. It is essential to know how to protect your finances in a divorce.

Factors That Impact the Duration of Spousal Support in California

A family court will consider the length of the marriage when determining alimony payments. If you and your spouse were separated anytime before the divorce, the court might consider the length of the separation period.

The types of alimony usually awarded in a California divorce are:

  • Temporary Spousal Support. This alimony is paid during divorce and stops when a judge cites a permanent order. Usually, temporary spousal support is granted to a spouse who needs financial assistance during a divorce. Temporary spousal support is generally calculated based on a formula used by the family court in the county where your case is filed.
  • Permanent Spousal Support. This alimony is granted after the divorce is finalized; however, it is crucial to understand that permanent spousal support is not awarded for life. If your marriage was less than ten years, the judge may grant spousal support for up to half of the length of the marriage. Suppose you were married for longer than ten years. In that case, the judge can order a longer or shorter duration for the alimony payment. In marriages that lasted more than ten years, judges are not permitted to eliminate spousal support but can set it to zero.

The other option is lump sum alimony which has both advantages and disadvantages.

Can You Modify Spousal Support?

Usually, spousal support can be modified, except when both parties have a previous agreement that it may not be revoked or altered. Also, spousal support of a fixed duration can’t be modified or extended after the deadline has passed. 

For the court to modify your alimony payments, the party asking for the modification must demonstrate a change in circumstance since the time of the order. The change must be substantial and material, and the court maintains complete discretion in determining if this requirement has been met.

An example would be if there is a decrease in income, the court may temporarily agree to reduce the spousal support payments. Either spouse may petition for a modification of support payments.

Terminating a Spousal Support Order

Suppose you can show the court a legally acceptable change in circumstances. In that case, you might be able to terminate your obligation of spousal support payments unless it was made non-terminable when ordered. 

Circumstances that may warrant spousal support termination include:

  • If you are over 65 and are ready to retire
  • You have a decrease in your income due to circumstances outside of your control, such as a severe accident or illness
  • Your former spouse gets remarried or registers a new domestic partnership
  • Your former spouse increases their income

If you are in the process of getting a divorce and seeking alimony or wanting to modify existing spousal support orders, hiring an expert attorney can help ensure you have someone in your corner looking out for your best interest.

For Help With Alimony In California, Hire The Experts

At Azmekia & Azmekia, our law firm is exclusively devoted to family law. Our attorneys are experienced in handling divorce cases, dissolution of domestic partnerships, paternity, child custody and support, child visitation and spousal support, adoptions, and abandonments. Our office in Kern County and our partners are here to put their expertise to work for you! Contact us today for your free case evaluation.