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Will you have to pay spousal support?

Almost everyone worries about how divorce will change their lives. But the changes aren't always as bad as you expect them to be. This is especially true for people, often men, who think they'll have to pay spousal support for the rest of their lives.

Laws about spousal support (or alimony) have changed a lot in recent years. Some forms of spousal support are only temporary, and many couples divorce without either spouse paying support to the other. Here are some important things to know about spousal support in California.

Spousal support is not just for men.

California's spousal support laws are gender neutral. A judge could require either a husband or a wife to pay spousal support.

Spousal support is not automatic.

Spousal support only becomes part of a divorce settlement in California if a judge determines it should be part of the divorce settlement.

Spousal support should be fair to both parties.

How does a judge decide whether one spouse needs to pay alimony to the other - and how much they need to pay? There's no simple rule, but here are some of the things judges need to consider:

  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • How much each spouse is able to earn and whether they will be able to support themselves in the future
  • Both spouses' ages, physical health and finances

For example, if a couple has been married for 20 years and the wife has never worked, it's likely her husband may need to pay spousal support. But if both spouses have earned about the same amount of income and will continue to earn about the same amount, it's less likely one will have to pay spousal support to the other one. (Child support, of course, is a different matter.)

Spousal support doesn't always last forever.

Just as there are many different reasons one spouse could end up supporting the other after divorce, there are different forms support can take. Different kinds of spousal support include:

  • Temporary support, which is usually paid before the divorce is finalized but the couple is already separated
  • Lump-sum support, which is only paid once, not repeatedly over time
  • Rehabilitative support, which stops once the other spouse can support himself or herself
  • Permanent support, which can last until the other spouse remarries or dies

There are no easy answers to questions about how spousal support will fit into your divorce, but an attorney can help you make sure your divorce settlement is fair to you.

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