Can I ask for permanent spousal support in my divorce?

If you have an impending divorce, and you earn much less than your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you might be concerned about how you are going to support yourself. You may know that spousal maintenance and spousal support exists to support people in your circumstances while they get back on their feet financially after a divorce. But you might be wondering how long alimony lasts, and if it’s possible to receive financial support for the rest of your life.

How California courts calculate alimony

There is a list of factors that California divorce courts have to consider when calculating support. These factors include things such as the length of the marriage, the earning power of both spouses, their education level and any special needs caused by health conditions.

In general, California courts use spousal maintenance and support as a way help provide for the needs of the spouse with lower income until they can become self-sufficient and regain the ability to support themselves. The purpose of the support is not to give money to one of the spouses so that they never have to work again.

Many courts in California base the length of support payments on about half of the length of the marriage. This means that, if you were married for eight years, you might expect spousal support to last four years.

This time period isn’t absolute, and a court can modify it based on special circumstances present in your particular case. The amount can also be modified later, if one of the spouses has a change of circumstances and petitions the court for a spousal support modification.

An award of permanent support (alimony) for the rest of the receiving spouse’s life is extremely rare. A California court would likely only grant permanent alimony if it was the only just and reasonable option. Unless you have extraordinary circumstances, you can expect your alimony payment to be limited to a certain number of years.

Spousal support serves an important function. It allows the less-earning spouse to receive additional education or job training, and to seek employment in order to become self-sufficient. This is essential in order for you to be able to get back on your feet after your divorce.