Permanent alimony isn’t as common as it once was. In previous generations, it was typically ordered to be paid by men to their wives who didn’t work outside the house once they got married and therefore would have a difficult time obtaining a job that would support them if the marriage ended.
What factors do judges consider in ordering alimony?
Now alimony (also known as spousal support) is most often paid on a temporary basis. If a couple is unable to negotiate alimony on their own, a judge will do it. When deciding on spousal support, California family court judges typically look at things like:
- The standard of living the couple had during their marriage
- The earning potential of the spouse seeking support (as well as that of the other spouse)
- What education or training the person seeking support will need to obtain the skills necessary to support themselves
- How custody of any children is being divided
- Duration of the marriage
- How much the spouse seeking support contributed to the higher-earning spouse’s financial success
The last situation may apply if one spouse worked to put the other one through graduate school or getting a medical or law degree. It can also apply if a spouse left their career to raise the kids while their spouse built a career or business.
When is permanent alimony a possibility?
California family court judges have considerable discretion in determining how much alimony is paid and for how long. They even have the ability to order permanent alimony if they believe it’s warranted.
The factors noted above may lead a judge to consider a request for permanent alimony. Although it’s not specifically mentioned in California law, as it still is in a small number of states, it’s not prohibited. “Permanent” may be a relative term, however. While it may be ordered until one spouse dies, it could also be ordered only until the receiving spouse remarries. Of course, if circumstances change drastically, the paying spouse can request a modification or an end to the support.
Judges look at the factors noted above when considering a request for permanent alimony. However, the duration of the marriage is often a much more significant factor. Permanent alimony is more likely to be ordered if the marriage has lasted for many years. It’s also more likely if there’s a significant discrepancy in the spouses’ earning capacity.
Whether you’re the one seeking alimony or the one being asked to pay, it’s important to understand the factors that are considered so you can develop a plan as you bargain.