For legal purposes, there is no specific difference between alimony and spousal support. Both terms refer to court-ordered support payments from one ex-spouse to another. However, when someone is talking to you about their divorce or their experience with the family courts, it’s common for alimony to be used to refer to spousal support payments that are permanent. Alimony is also an older term that was used more frequently before spousal support became the preferred term.

Alimony isn’t a factor in every divorce, but when it is, it can be a serious consideration. Find out how alimony may apply to your specific case by talking with a California family law attorney.

How Do the Courts Decide Whether to Award Temporary or Permanent Spousal Support?

Whether spousal support is awarded during a divorce depends on several factors. It is more likely to be awarded when there is a significant income disparity between the two parties or one party sacrificed career or education advancement to stay home and take care of the household or children while the other continued working. However, when it comes to how long spousal support payments are made, the length of the relationship is the key factor. In general, the longer the relationship, the longer you may receive spousal support. You usually have to be married for at least ten years to be eligible for permanent spousal support.

How Is Alimony Calculated?

Alimony in California is calculated by determining both parties’ incomes and then looking at the disparity. The courts determine which spouse has the higher earnings and calculate 35 percent to 40 percent of that income. For the lower-earning spouse, the courts calculate 40 percent to 50 percent of their income. Then, the courts subtract the lower-earning income from the higher-earning income to get a number for the alimony payments.

What Happens If I Get Remarried?

If you are currently under an alimony order, it’s important to understand how remarriage has an effect on your payments. If you are paying alimony and get remarried, you are still obligated to continue making your payments. However, if you are the party receiving the payments and you get remarried, any remaining alimony–or permanent alimony–is forfeited. This is because alimony is supposed to act as financial support after divorce, and the courts assume that you are receiving the benefit of your new spouse’s financial support after you remarry.

Alimony can be difficult to understand, but an attorney can clarify whether it applies to your case and what you need to know moving forward. To schedule a consultation and find out more about alimony and spousal support, call our office at (213) 351-1000.