Alimony/Spousal Support

Alimony/Spousal Support


Spousal support, also commonly known as alimony, may be requested as part of a divorce, legal separation, annulment, or protection order. At Brown & Dahan, we focus exclusively on family law issues such as spousal support, so that you can focus on the challenging personal aspects of restructuring your family. Our assertive and experienced Orange County spousal support lawyers have over 40 years of collective experience. We can help you negotiate a support amount with your current or former partner, and if needed, bring your spousal support request to the court.


As is true with respect to child support, California judges use a formula to calculate an appropriate amount of spousal support. The judge will also consider factors enumerated in California Family Code section 4320. These include:

  • How long the marriage was;
  • Each person’s needs based on their standard of living during the marriage;
  • What each person can afford to pay;
  • Effect of a job on the children, age, and health of each person;
  • Debts;
  • Whether one partner helped the other advance his or her education or career;
  • Existence or nonexistence of domestic violence; and
  • Tax impacts of spousal support.

With respect to domestic violence by the spouse who is to pay the support, the judge will take into account whether the person who is to be supported experienced emotional distress.

In determining spousal support, the goal of the judge is to keep each partner close to the standard of living he or she had during the marriage, while putting him or her closer to being self-supporting within a reasonable time period. In determining how long spousal support is appropriate, a judge may look not only at the length of the marriage, but also at the situation of the spouse who is getting support. The court will look at his or her professional skills, the current job market, need for further education, and whether that spouse devoted him or herself to taking care of the household during the marriage and is therefore impaired for purposes of job-seeking now.


A reasonable period of time for spousal support to be paid can be half the length of the marriage if the marriage was less than 10 years long, but variations are left to the judge’s discretion. Long-term marriages may not have an end date to spousal support. Like a child support order, a spousal support order stays in place until the court changes the terms of it, ends it, or when the terms of the order dictate the end. Spousal support can also be terminated if one of the former spouses dies, or the person who was getting the support remarries or enters a domestic partnership.


If you fall behind in your spousal support payments, interest charges are added at the rate of 10% per year. This is not a matter of judicial discretion. Further, if a court believes you are able to pay, but not paying, you may be found in “contempt of court,” which can sometimes lead to a stint in jail. Moreover, if you fail to make a significant number of payments, your wages can be garnished to cover the arrearage. Spousal support debts cannot be erased by bankruptcy.

Under California law, spousal support is a serious obligation. Therefore, it is important to persuade the court of your position from the outset. The guidance of an experienced Orange County family law attorney can make a big difference with regard to what you must ultimately pay or be paid under the terms of a court order. Contact us for help today at (949) 724-8857 or via our online form.