Types of Alimony in California: Which One is Right for You

Divorce is never easy. In addition to the emotional and social turmoil you may be dealing with, your mind will likely be flooded with questions about how you are going to protect yourself and your assets going forward. Alimony might be an option to help you transition after a divorce, and a California alimony attorney can help you get what you need.

In many marriages, one spouse may have been relying on the other for financial support. In those situations, divorce may mean that one spouse is left without the resources they have come to rely on. When this happens, the courts may order the higher-earning spouse to pay alimony to the other to ensure financial equity after the divorce.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a financial settlement that is often reached during divorce proceedings. It is different than child support, which is its own separate cost. Its job is to make the ex-spouses’ financial situations as equal as possible. Alimony, also called spousal support, is not rewarded in every divorce settlement, but it is common. Sometimes couples agree for one spouse to pay the other a specific amount over a certain period. Other times, the amount of spousal support and the length of time it will be paid is decided by a judge.

What Are the Different Types of Alimony in California?

Most people understand the basics of alimony, also called spousal support. However, few realize that there are various types of alimony. If a divorce does end up with one spouse paying support to another, there are four types that can be awarded.

  • Temporary Alimony. Temporary alimony is given to one spouse while the divorce is pending. It can help the lower-earning spouse by providing them with brief financial security during the divorce. The higher-earning spouse is required to pay the lower-earning spouse to help them maintain their current standard of living. When the case is resolved, temporary alimony could potentially turn into permanent alimony.
  • Permanent Alimony. Permanent alimony is a long-term order by the court as part of a legal separation agreement or a divorce decree. It refers to an alimony that can last for months or years, not necessarily forever as its name implies. Permanent alimony may be awarded if the marriage was for over 10 years or if one spouse earned far more than the other. The longer the marriage, the longer the alimony agreement will most likely last.
  • When deciding on permanent alimony, a judge will consider several factors, such as:
    • The age and physical condition of both spouses.
    • The income and ability to earn of both spouses.
    • The standard of living during the marriage.
    • The ability of the lower earner to become self-sufficient
  • Rehabilitative Alimony. Rehabilitative alimony may be paid by the higher-earning spouse while the lower-earning spouse looks for employment or takes the necessary steps to become self-sufficient. Becoming self-sufficient can mean obtaining professional certification, going back to school and getting a professional degree, or entering into employment training.

    Rehabilitative alimony typically ends once the lower-earning spouse becomes financially stable or independent. Rehabilitative alimony may also be ended if the lower-earning spouse remarries.

  • Lump-Sum Alimony. Lump-sum alimony is a single, often larger payment made only one time to the awarded party. Alimony is typically awarded in monthly installments that add up to the total amount awarded by the court. Lump-sum alimony may be given in place of a property settlement. If one spouse does not wish to claim marital property, the other spouse may order a lump-sum payment instead.


Q: What Is Reimbursement Alimony?

A: Reimbursement alimony does not exist under California state law. When judges are deciding how much alimony to award, they will consider many factors, such as the spouses’ contributions to each other’s careers or education. If reimbursement is awarded, it will be as part of a property division agreement, not as alimony.

Q: How Many Years Do You Have to Be Married to Pay Alimony in California?

A: Typically, couples who have been married for over 10 years can negotiate alimony if one spouse was earning the majority of the money. Couples who have been married for less than 10 years cannot be guaranteed alimony payments. The court takes into account marriage length and both parties’ income. In short, every situation is different, and every divorce is unique.

Q: Can Alimony Be Modified in California?

A: Judges may modify alimony unless the couple has specifically agreed that alimony will not be modified. If there has been a change of circumstances, you may file a motion with the court to modify alimony. Unless both parties have an agreement to modify alimony in any way, alimony modification proceedings involve complex legal situations, and it is often ideal to have them handled by experienced divorce attorneys.

Q: Does Cheating Affect Alimony in California?

A: Cheating does not affect alimony in California, which is a no-fault divorce state. While certainly heartbreaking, judges do not have to take infidelity into consideration when deciding alimony. The only grounds for divorce in California are:

  • “Irreconcilable differences” that directly led to the “irremediable breakdown of the marriage.” Typically, this means you and your spouse cannot get along and have no hope of saving the marriage. This could mean many different things, including infidelity.
  • One spouse lacks the legal ability to make decisions. This will require testimony from a medical professional to prove the claim.

Contact the Right Divorce Lawyer for You

At the Law Offices of Patricia A. Rigdon, we believe the attorney you hire should work for you, and that’s exactly what we do. We know how painful and stressful divorce can be, and our experienced team can help you at every step of the way.  Even the most amicable divorce is a situation nobody expects, but it does not have to cause you irreparable financial and emotional stress.

We devote ourselves to finding the most optimal outcome for our clients’ needs, no matter what their situation may be. If you need an experienced divorce attorney, contact us today. We are here to help.