When you’re pursuing a divorce, the court actively tries to distribute property fairly and reach a settlement that works for both parties. But if you’re the primary breadwinner of the family, your spouse may be entitled to spousal support or alimony. These payments help them maintain their current standard of living for a set period of time and come directly from you, the breadwinner. While this might seem unfair on the surface—and it can be in some instances—your California family law attorney is there to help you negotiate fair terms. To do that, you still need to understand how alimony is calculated.

How Courts Decide If You Owe Alimony

Unless you and your spouse specifically incorporate alimony payments into your negotiations prior to going to court, the award of alimony is something the judge will likely determine. To make that decision, the court will consider the following:

  • The ages of both spouses
  • The relative health of both parties
  • The ability for both parties to maintain a job
  • The length of the marriage
  • The division of assets and property
  • The amount of income produced by both parties’ investments
  • The financial needs of both parties
  • The income earned through freelance and employer-sponsored work

This is not an exhaustive list. Every situation is unique and the exact factors that the judge will use to determine alimony amounts and eligibility will depend on your unique situation. If the court determines that your spouse is unable to work or maintain their current lifestyle (within reason) at their current income levels, or your spouse is in poor health, you may need to pay alimony. 

What Happens If Your Situation Changes

The original alimony amount is determined based on the information you provided during the divorce proceedings. If your personal situation changes—say you lost a job, retired, or have large medical bills to take care of—the court may be willing to negotiate a lower payment or end payments altogether. Similarly, if your income goes up dramatically, your ex-spouse may ask for a higher amount of alimony.

How to Request a Modification

To get the court to reevaluate your alimony agreement, you’ll need to request a modification with the court. There’s a form you’ll need to fill out in which you’ll explain why you’re requesting a modification and the situations you’re facing that prompted the request. You’ll also need to attach supporting documentation that shows why a modification is needed. This could be something like medical bills, a change in pay at work, or other proof that your financial situation has changed. Once you file the forms, the court will review them and render a decision.

Your California family law attorney can help you with every step. They’ll tell you what types of information you need to provide and can give you advice on how best to make your case.

Let an Experienced California Family Law Attorney Help

If you’re exploring the possibility of a divorce and are worried about having to pay alimony, speak with an experienced California family law attorney and let them help you better understand your options. At Jackman Law, our team understands that alimony payments can seem like an added financial burden, but they are sometimes necessary. We’ll help you understand how your finances may impact your divorce and can represent your interests with the court. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.