Spousal Support

Court’s Authority to Order Payment of Spousal Support in California

spousal support in California spousal support in california Spousal Support 894ad510b15f417cba9599a8bd61f416 2015238204 300x300Spousal support in California also commonly known as Alimony in California is one of the main issues during the divorce or legal separation. However, Spousal support or Alimony in California can be brought in different proceedings. For example, in order to enforce the duty of support, a supported spouse (or a county on behalf of a supported spouse) can bring a civil action against the supporting spouse under Family Code 4303 (a). This action may be brought even if the party seeking support is not terminating marriage, and a court has the authority to award temporary, as well as permanent.

Another example of proceeding for Alimony in California is Domestic Violence Protection Act Proceedings. Under Family Code C 6200-6409 temporary spousal support may be awarded in a proceeding under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. After notice and a hearing, the respondent may be ordered to pay spousal support in an amount that would otherwise be authorized under Family Code 3500-3830 or 4300-4360, if the parties are married to each other or are domestic partners and there is no existing spousal or partner support order.

Spousal support in California Under Family Code 720, marriage is a contract between spouses that includes obligations to respect and support each other. If parties are living together and there is no community or quasi-community property, one spouse is expected to use his or her own separate property to support the other. One spouse is not liable for the spousal support in California when they are living separately by agreement, unless the payment of support is made a part of the agreement. If there is no agreement, the support duty continues

There is a criminal responsibility when one spouse avoids providing Alimony in California. Under Penal Code C 270a, a person who can support his or her spouse, but who unjustifiably and “willfully abandons and leaves his or her spouse in a destitute condition, or who refuses or neglects to provide such spouse with necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical attendance” is guilty of a misdemeanor.

Under Penal Code C 270.6, a supporting spouse who has notice of a temporary or permanent spousal support order and leaves California willfully intending to avoid the support order, with no legal excuse, is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 1 year, a fine up to $2000, or both.

In a proceeding to terminate a marriage, a putative spouse may be awarded spousal support in California. A putative spouse is one who had a good faith belief that his or her marriage was valid.

Effect of Marital Settlement Agreements on the spousal support in California

Spouses or registered domestic partners may agree to limit the amount and duration of spousal support in California in connection with a divorce or legal separation in a marital settlement agreement, a written stipulation, or an oral stipulation made in court on the record. The terms of a marital settlement agreement may also constrain the court’s discretion to modify or terminate Alimony in California, despite intervening unfair changes of circumstance. Provisions for an agreement regarding spousal support in California are separate from provisions regarding property division. Waivers of spousal support in California in an agreement are subject to strict scrutiny.


Family code 4320 set fourteen factors the judge considering a spousal support in California

  • Spouses’ earning capacity;
  • The needs of each spouse;
  • Contributions to each other getting professional training and degree;
  • The actual ability of a supporting party to pay;
  • The obligations and assets of each party;
  • The length of the marriage;
  • How the employment of supported party would influence minor;
  • The spouses’ health and age;
  • Any history of domestic violence;
  • The tax consequences to each party;
  • The hardships to each party;
  • The goal of self-support by the supported party;
  • Any criminal conviction of an abusive party.
  • Any other factors relative to the spousal support

Effect of Spouse’s Separate Estate on Spousal Support in California

If the spouses have no children and a spouse received or had  a separate estate sufficient for his/her support, a court shall not continue or make a support against the other spouse.

Even if a spouse potentially a subject to a spousal support order, a court can deny the payment of support out of his/her separate property if there is sufficient community property or quasi-community property to give that spouse a proper support or custody of the spouses’ children has been awarded to the spouse from whom support is asked, and that spouse is supporting the children.

Changing spousal support order.

The most common reasons for changing spousal support order are:
1. Losing of employment
2. Closing a business
3. Reduction of income from investment
4. Retirement
5. Ex-spouse receiving spousal support is no longer needs it
6. Ex-spouse is remarried (automatically terminated unless the parties have agreed in writing to the contrary)

It is important to know that changes need to be done as soon as your circumstances have changed. If you lose your job, for example, you might wait hoping you will find another job soon. However, if you do not find a job for some time and ask the court to modify the spousal support retroactively, the court will reject your request.

Changing spousal support order. How it can be done?

Generally, changing a spousal support order is a difficult issue for the court. There are some combinations of factors to consider with each reason for changing spousal support. We will try to explain the main ideas in the simplest way as possible.
If a change in the supporting ex-spouse’s income is the reason for the changing spousal support request, the court will consider whether reduction in income was under the obligated parties control. A party cannot intentionally reduce his income seeking a reduction of spousal support. If a court thinks the income reduction could have been prevented, the request to change spousal support will not be granted.
Request for Order and supported documents must be filed with the same court where the final judgment was issued. The party asking for a change in spousal support must serve the other party with the appropriate documents.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule an appointment please call our office at 714-390-3766 or email