When Does Alimony End?

In California, when a couple files for a legal separation or divorce, the court may order one of the spouses or domestic partners to pay alimony, otherwise known as spousal support to the other spouse. In the case of a marriage, this is called spousal support, and in the case of a domestic partnership, it is called "partner support."

Spousal support is not automatic in a California divorce, instead the courts order it on a case-by-case basis. The decision to award spousal support depends on the length of a marriage, a spouse's ability to pay support, the receiving spouse's need, and a variety of other factors such as:

  • The age and health of both parties
  • The couple's debts and property
  • Any history of domestic violence
  • A spouse's contribution as a homemaker
  • A spouse's contribution to the other's education
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The income and resources of each spouse
  • The need for one of the spouses to raise the children
  • The tax implications of spousal support

A judge can order spousal support while a divorce case is pending, this is called a temporary support order. However, spousal support can also be ordered once the legal separation or divorce is finalized – this is called "permanent spousal support."

Generally, spousal support is set for a "reasonable period of time," which may be one-half the length of the marriage. Under California law, however, the law says that awarding spousal support is at the judge's discretion and a judge may make a different decision based on the circumstances of the case.

When a marriage lasts 10 years or more, a judge may choose not to set an end date for spousal or partner support.

Circumstances That End Spousal Support

Are there any circumstances that automatically end spousal support? In a word, yes. Spousal support ends when: 1) a court order says it ends, 2) when one of the spouses or domestic partners passes away, or 3) when the receiving spouse remarries.

In effect, death or remarriage automatically end spousal support, unless the divorce decree explicitly says that alimony shall continue despite a remarriage.

If you need further information about filing for divorce, modifying spousal support, or ending spousal support, do not hesitate to contact Cutter & Lax to schedule a consultation with an experienced Encino divorce lawyer. We proudly service clients all throughout the Greater San Fernando Valley.