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Spousal Issues

What is spousal support? Is it the same as alimony?

Spousal support (also known as partner support for registered domestic partners) is the term for alimony in California. Spousal support is money that one spouse pays to help support the other after the filing of a dissolution or legal separation. Usually, the spouse receiving such support will pay federal and state income taxes on it, and the one making such payments will be entitled to a tax deduction.

To determine the amount of spousal support, the judge will consider such factors as the standard of living during the marriage, the length of the marriage, and the age, health, earning capacity and job histories of both individuals. If the marriage lasted less than 10 years, it is unlikely that a judge will order spousal support for longer than half the length of the marriage.

Perhaps neither of you needs spousal support. Since circumstances can change (you could become ill, for example, or lose your job), we may ask the judge to reserve jurisdiction to order spousal support in the future. (The judge will be more likely to do this if your marriage lasted 10 years or close to it.) This will leave the door open so you can ask for such support at a later time. Under certain circumstances, you or your spouse may go back to court and ask the judge to change the amount of support. The judge also can order a wage assignment directing a spouse's employer to pay spousal support.