Alimony in a California Divorce Judgment

The alimony order at the end of the divorce

Alimony at the Judgment Phase

There is temporary support. And then there is support at the judgment phase. Some call this permanent support.

The problem with using that term is spousal support is rarely permanent. Unless the spouses agree it is not modifiable, it is modifiable.

Family Code 4320 rules the day on spousal support at judgment.

That code section reads as follows:

In ordering spousal support under this part, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances:

(a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:

(1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.

(2) The extent to which the supported party's present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.

(b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.

(c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.

(d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.

(e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.

(f) The duration of the marriage.

(g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.

(h) The age and health of the parties.

(i) All documented evidence of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party's child, including, but not limited to, consideration of:

(1) A plea of nolo contendere.

(2) Emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party.

(3) Any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.

(4) Issuance of a protective order after a hearing pursuant to Section 6340.

(5) A finding by a court during the pendency of a divorce, separation, or child custody proceeding, or other proceeding under Division 10 (commencing with Section 6200), that the spouse has committed domestic violence.

(j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.

(k) The balance of the hardships to each party.

(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a "reasonable period of time" for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court's discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.

(m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4324.5 or 4325.

(n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

The family law judge must consider these factors in a contested case

That is what makes spousal support at judgment different from temporary spousal support. Temporary support often relies on a computer program. A judge cannot rely on the program for the final support.

The spousal support at judgment does not have to be through a contested hearing. The spouses can always settle on a number and write that number in the stipulated (agreed upon) judgment. The spouses can also then go through those Family Code 4320 factors in that stipulated judgment.

For a detailed explanation of each factor, please read our guide on alimony laws in California.

Learn more about California alimony

There are paths ahead of you. You have choices.

Knowledge about California alimony law and procedure does not have to be outside of your reach. You can educate yourself about it and then obtain legal advice from an experienced family law attorney.

Our family law firm offers an affordable strategy session to prospective clients. The goal is simple - to answer your questions and provide you with the advice that will help you make smart choices.

Ready to learn more? Click on the links below to learn about related alimony topics.