Spousal Support


Spousal support in California is typically ordered by the court in long-term marriages. There are many issues that are considered by the court when making an award of spousal support. In rare instances, a court may award spousal support be paid in short term marriages.

Issues Considered by the Court When Ordering Spousal Support

A judge takes many things into consideration when determining the amount of spousal support that should be ordered. These include:

  •   The length of the marriage or domestic partnership,
  •   What each person needs,
  •   What each person pays or can pay (including earnings and earning capacity),
  •   Whether having a job would make it too hard to take care of the child(ren),
  •   The age and health of both people,
  •   Debts and property,
  •   Whether a spouse or domestic partner helped the other get an education, training, career, or professional license
  •   Whether there was domestic violence in the marriage or domestic partnership,
  •   Whether the career of a spouse or domestic partner was affected by unemployment, or by taking care of the children or home,
  •   The tax impact of spousal support (Note: federal and state tax laws were not changed to recognize domestic partnerships).

Spousal Support in California

When a couple separates or divorces, the court may order one spouse to pay the other a certain amount of support money each month. This is called “spousal support.” A spousal support award is not mandatory in dissolution or legal separation proceedings in California. Courts have discretion (within statutory parameters) to deny spousal support altogether or to limit it in an amount and duration that reflects the ability of both parties to provide for their own needs.

Spousal Support Information

Download information on how spousal support is calculated, and applicable Code Sections.

Term of Spousal Support


The term of spousal support can be strictly limited, which means that it can be either modifiable or non-modifiable, limited in length of time, have specified conditions for termination, etc. Usually, spousal support is tax deductible for the paying spouse and taxable income for the supported spouse.

Spousal support orders for a fixed duration terminate at the end of the period specified in the order unless the court retained jurisdiction in its most recent order to extend the obligation. Except upon the parties’ written agreement to the contrary or a court order terminating support, the court retains spousal support jurisdiction indefinitely where the marriage has been of “long duration.
  • Contingent Orders

An obligation to pay spousal support for a contingent period of time terminates on the happening of the specified contingency. 
  • Remarriage/death

Unless the parties have “otherwise agreed” in writing, a court ordered spousal support obligation terminates upon either party’s death or the supported partys remarriage.