Understanding Remarriage And Alimony In California

alimony

Some of the more common questions asked when going through a divorce are: who is receiving or paying alimony, and what happens to that alimony when the recipient remarries? Or how does cohabitation without being remarried work? While the answers are somewhat simple, there are some nuances to consider. 

This article gives an overview of alimony in California and how remarriage or cohabitation can affect any alimony obligations. For more detailed information or specific advice, you can seek support from an experienced family lawyer in California to answer all your questions and guide you through the process.

Alimony in California

In California, spousal support, also known as alimony, is usually a monthly payment that one spouse pays the other to help the lesser-earning or unemployed spouse maintain a living while gaining skills or education necessary to support themselves on their own. These payments can be short-term, long-term, or made in one lump sum, but the amount and terms can be negotiated and agreed upon between the two spouses or ordered by the court. 

Many couples include a provision in their marital settlement agreement or prenuptial agreement that details a specific date and year when the spousal support payments will end. If the parties fail to set up a particular termination date, the end of alimony payments will be determined by state law. If the marital settlement agreement and divorce order are not clearly stated, the parties must rely on California law.

How Does Remarriage Impact Alimony?

California Family Code Section 4337 states that spousal support is automatically terminated when the spouse who receives the alimony is remarried. This provision exists to streamline the transition and removes the need for a court hearing or an additional legal process to end alimony. Remarriage does not end the support if there is a past-due balance, vested lump-sum alimony payments, or property transfers. The ex-spouse receiving support is responsible for notifying the other about their remarriage. Not doing so can result in an order by the court to refund any excess alimony payments.

This regulation does not affect temporary support being awarded during separation. The law also does not apply where the two spouses’ agreement says no different. For instance, within a divorce settlement, both parties have agreed to continue paying alimony payments even if the recipient remarries. This agreement must be explicitly stated in the settlement to be effective.

Alimony When Cohabitating Without Remarrying

Under California Family Code Section 4323, cohabitation with a non-marital partner can be perceived by the court as a change in circumstances, which could lead to alimony being reduced or terminated. Unless the supported spouse can prove they still need alimony payments while living with someone else, the court can presume that the reduction or termination is appropriate. It is important to note that cohabitation is more than just a roommate situation; it usually requires a personal, romantic relationship, but the court may still find the need for support to modify alimony even with just a roommate if it affects the supported spouse’s new financial circumstances. The cohabitant’s income will not be considered at a hearing regarding cohabitation, but any new financial circumstance of the ex-spouse receiving support will be considered.

Modifications or Termination of Alimony

Suppose a supported spouse is simply living with someone new or has an increase in income. In that case, the paying spouse must file a motion to modify support and request a court order to lower or end alimony payments altogether. If you can, ask your ex-spouse to agree to lower or end alimony in their new circumstances. Still, if they disagree, you can file a motion to modify or terminate the alimony with the same court that granted your divorce.

You’ll need to show how the circumstances have changed and how it warrants the modification or termination:

  • Proof of their increase in income
  • Significantly lowered needs
  • Living with another person in a romantic relationship
  • Statements from family or friends about the cohabitation 
  • Evidence of the ex-spouse’s new address
  • Communication from the ex-spouse about their cohabitation

Kern County Family Law By Your Side 

If you are looking to consult with an experienced family law attorney about remarriage and alimony, Azemika Law is here for you, with our practice devoted to family law for 28 years. We efficiently handle cases involving divorce, dissolutions of partnerships, child custody and visitations, abandonment, and adoptions. Serving all of Kern County, we want you to have the opportunity to make informed decisions from the best position possible for your future.

Contact us today, and let us help you create effective resolutions and fair alimony agreements.