2024 How Long Does Alimony Last in California?

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Aug 15, 2023

The purpose of alimony after a divorce is to provide both parties with similar financial security, allowing them time to become self-supporting. This enables each spouse to have a similar standard of living to what they were accustomed to during the marriage. This is particularly necessary if one spouse made sacrifices in their career or education to care for a home, support their spouse, or care for children. After a divorce, this spouse would not have the income to support themselves without alimony.

Alimony can be a tricky subject for some couples. It is not always assigned during a divorce, but it may be necessary, depending on the income of each party and other factors. The spouse receiving alimony payments may often feel that the amount and duration of payments are not enough to cover their needs, while the paying spouse frequently feels that they are being required to pay too much.

By understanding how California courts determine spousal support payments and their duration, you can understand what you may be expected to pay or receive in a divorce case. For a clearer look at your unique circumstances, an Alimony Lawyer in Orange County, CA, can review your divorce case and determine if alimony may be necessary.

What Impacts Spousal Support Payments?

When the court determines the duration and amount of alimony, there are several factors they review to make that decision. This includes:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s income and earning capacity
  • The couple’s standard of living and lifestyle
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The separate and marital assets and debts
  • Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage

This is not a complete list of factors that the court considers when assigning or determining the amount of spousal support.

Temporary vs. Permanent Spousal Support

The length of the marriage is one of the primary concerns when determining how long spousal support payments last, but the court will also consider other aspects of each spouse’s financial circumstances. These aspects may include a spouse’s medical needs and costs or their inability to obtain a job in the field that they are qualified in. The main two types of alimony are:

  • Temporary Alimony
    Temporary alimony is awarded while divorce proceedings are ongoing. Before the divorce is finalized, one spouse may need financial support due to lower income or other factors. Temporary spousal support ends when the divorce is finalized, and it may or may not be replaced by permanent spousal support.
  • Permanent Alimony
    Permanent alimony payments are not always permanent, but they are a form of support that is awarded once a divorce is finalized. For marriages that lasted over 10 years, these payments may be permanent. Rather than having a specific end date, they remain under the court’s jurisdiction indefinitely, enabling them to be modified or terminated if necessary.

For marriages that lasted 10 years or less, the duration of permanent alimony is often half the length of the marriage. Any periods of separation will be accounted for when making this calculation.

When Does Permanent Support End?

In marriages lasting over 10 years, where the court has long-term or indefinite jurisdiction over spousal support, there are circumstances where alimony payments may be terminated prior to the death of the other party. This includes:

  • The paying spouse is 65 or older and wants to retire.
  • The paying spouse has had a decrease in income or an increase in financial obligations that was out of their control.
  • The receiving spouse has a higher income and/or is self-supporting.
  • The receiving spouse remarries.

The separation agreement will include the terms of terminating support that are unique to your divorce.


Q: What Disqualifies You From Alimony in California?

A: Not every divorce will assign alimony, and spouses can also waive their right to receive alimony. Alimony is assigned only if one spouse needs it to maintain a similar standard of living as the other spouse. If a spouse who would otherwise earn alimony is convicted of abuse or domestic violence, there is a presumed or automatic removal of their right to earn spousal support. Other reasons why a spouse may not receive spousal support may include:

  • They have a sufficient amount of separate assets to provide for themselves
  • The division of marital property is enough for them to support themselves.
  • The higher-earning spouse is unable to pay support due to other financial obligations.

Q: How Long Does an Ex-Spouse Have to Pay Alimony in California?

A: The duration of alimony payments relies on the length that the marriage lasted. For marriages that lasted under 10 years, alimony is generally required for half the length of the marriage. If a marriage lasted longer than 10 years, alimony payments may be permanent. There are certain factors that could lead to the termination of support, such as the remarriage of the supported spouse or their ability to become self-supporting.

Q: Can I Avoid Alimony in California?

A: Alimony is not mandatory, so it is possible to not be assigned spousal support payments in a divorce. However, if the court assigns you spousal support, you are required to meet those payments. Before or during your marriage, you can create a marital agreement with your partner, and this agreement can address alimony. This includes the amount and duration of support, or it could include a waiver of alimony. This may allow you to avoid alimony payments, but if the court determines that a marital agreement is unfair to one party, it may refuse to enforce those provisions.

Q: Does Alimony Stop If You Get Remarried in California?

A: In many cases, alimony may stop if you are remarried in California. This provision will be listed in the divorce decree. It may also state that cohabitating with a partner is cause to end alimony payments. These provisions exist because the court assumes a remarried party has additional finances and is more capable of being self-supporting without support payments. There are other circumstances where alimony payments may terminate, such as when the paying spouse retires or the supported spouse has a certain increase in income.

Contact Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP

The experienced divorce attorneys at Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, can help you negotiate a fair alimony payment to ensure that both parties are financially supported. At the same time, we can protect your interests when determining separation agreement terms. Contact our firm today if you need help negotiating, modifying, or terminating alimony payments.

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