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Understanding Alimony in California

Oct 29, 2021 | Family

In 2019, there were 746,971 divorces in the United States, according to the CDC/NCHS National Vital Statistics System. Throughout the country, many marriages end, and spouses must learn to navigate life after divorce, which includes learning how to live in a new financial situation.

Our team at Equal Justice Law Group, Inc. can help you understand your rights when it comes to alimony. We’ve worked for over two decades to provide legal support for more than 7,000 clients. We’re dedicated to finding out how to best apply the law to your specific situation. Our team is happy to provide expert legal guidance to clients in Sacramento, California, and the surrounding communities of Jackson, El Dorado Hills, and Placerville.

Alimony in California

Alimony, which is known as spousal support in the California courts, is payment from one spouse to another once the couple separates and plans to divorce, and sometimes, after the divorce is finalized.

Types of Alimony

In California, there are four different types of alimony: temporary, permanent, rehabilitative, and reimbursement.


When one spouse has a higher income than the other, typically that spouse will be required to make alimony payments to the spouse who earns less during the divorce proceedings. However, temporary alimony ends once a permanent alimony award is set.


After the divorce is finalized, permanent alimony may be ordered to help the supported spouse after the divorce. However, permanent alimony is rare. It’s usually reserved for situations where the spouses were married for more than 10 years and one spouse can’t enter the workforce due to advanced age or illness.


Rehabilitative alimony is a temporary type of spousal support. The goal is that the spouse who was the lower-earner during the marriage will use the time during which they receive rehabilitative alimony to gain valuable job skills or education. This will allow him or her to enter the workforce, and ultimately, to support himself or herself.


In some marriages, one spouse financially supports the other spouse while they pursue education or career advancement training. In California, the spouse who provided the financial support is able to sue for reimbursement alimony for the support they provided during that time in the case of a divorce.

Factors Considered

Many factors are taken into consideration when determining alimony. Some of those factors include:

  • The age of each spouse
  • The health of each spouse
  • How much each spouse is able to earn
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The ability of each spouse to pay spousal support
  • How much one spouse supported the other while they pursued education or certification
  • Each spouse’s needs according to the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • How long it will take the lower-earning spouse to become self-supporting

These are only a few of the many factors the court takes into consideration when determining alimony.

Modifications to Existing Agreements

In almost all cases, it is possible to change or even end an alimony agreement. The exception is if the original spousal support arrangement stated the agreement was “non-modifiable.” However, in most situations, spouses are able to modify their agreement.

You can either work out the agreement with your spouse and send it to court in a written contract or, if you and your spouse can’t agree, then you’ll have to go to court. The person who wants to change the spousal support agreement must show a significant change of circumstances in order to prove that there’s a need to change the arrangement. Typically, a significant change of circumstances involves the loss of a job or another major life change.

Tax Ramifications

The tax ramifications of alimony depend on when the divorce happened and differ for federal versus state taxes. If the divorce was finalized before December 31st, 2018, then the spouse who pays the alimony can list it as a tax deduction on their federal taxes. The spouse who receives the alimony must report it as income.

For more recent divorces, the tax deduction has been eliminated and alimony is also no longer considered income for the recipient – for federal taxes only.

In California, the spouse who pays alimony can still claim it as a deduction on their state taxes. The spouse receiving the alimony must list it as income on their state taxes.

How Legal Counsel Can Help

No matter what your financial situation is, a family law attorney can help you determine how to navigate the alimony process during your divorce. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of your financial situation as you approach the process and during the conversations with your spouse.

Alimony Attorney in Sacramento, California

Divorce challenges both spouses in different ways, and settling finances is often one of the most difficult parts of the divorce process. Our team at Equal Justice Law Group, Inc. will be by your side and leverage our expertise to help make the process smoother. We’re proud to serve clients in Sacramento, Jackson, El Dorado Hills, and Placerville, California. Contact us today to schedule your Consultation and to learn more about how alimony works in California.

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