A common question divorce lawyers get from clients is, “If my wife filed for divorce, do I have to pay her support?” If your wife filed for divorce, she may be awarded alimony; it depends on the details of your marriage and divorce. This is also true in cases where a husband files for divorce and requests support; gender does not play a role in determining spousal support obligations in California. This means that either spouse in a divorce may be awarded support or obligated to pay support with no consideration for gender in opposite-sex or same-sex marriages.

Personalized advice is more accurate and helpful than generic guidance in any divorce case. If you would like to discuss the details of your case with an experienced California divorce attorney, contact the Sarieh Law Offices.

Who Qualifies for Alimony in California?

The court will consider a number of factors when deciding whether or not to award spousal support in a divorce. One factor a judge will use is the length of the marriage. A marriage that lasted more than ten years is considered a long-duration marriage. Shorter marriages are often subject to different guidelines regarding alimony, so the amount of spousal support will usually be lower in marriages that lasted less than ten years.

The other major contributing factor is the income of both spouses. California typically awards alimony in cases where one spouse makes significantly more than the other spouse. If your wife is a stay-at-home mom or homemaker at the time of divorce, or if she spent a substantial amount of time in those roles during the marriage, alimony is more likely to be awarded. That’s because running a household is an important contribution to a family and a marriage, and filling this role kept her from pursuing paid employment outside of the home.

Choosing to stay home to raise children or manage a busy household is not generally treated the same way as voluntary unemployment or underemployment. In some cases, the judge will also base alimony amount on whether the unemployed or underemployed spouse has the capacity to earn more income than they do. If so, income may be imputed. This means the spouse’s earning potential will be used to calculate alimony payments rather than their actual earnings.

Other factors a judge will consider when ruling on alimony payments in a California divorce include:

  • The age and health of both spouses

  • The standard of living during the marriage

  • The assets and debts of both spouses

  • Each spouse’s need and their ability to pay alimony

  • Tax implications

  • History of abuse

Temporary or Permanent Alimony

The duration of spousal support payments will vary in each divorce case. Temporary alimony may be awarded to the lower-earning spouse during the divorce proceedings, with the final decision on long-term support being included in the divorce decree. Many higher-earning spouses are required to pay spousal support for half the length of the marriage if the marriage lasted less than ten years. So, using this guideline, if you and your wife have been married for 20 years, you would be ordered to pay support for 10 years. Of course, this is based on the details of your case, and nothing is guaranteed. For longer marriages, there are no similar guidelines about what a reasonable timeframe is. Equity is the goal. Permanent support is not common, but it can be awarded if a judge determines that it is equitable.

When Does Spousal Support End in California?

The obligation to pay your wife spousal support will only end according to the terms of the divorce decree. There may be other situations in which a motion can be filed to request amended support payments, such as if you lose your job through no fault of your own or experience some other significant life event that is outside of your control. Otherwise, support will only end if one of the stipulations in your divorce decree is reached.

California law requires that support payments end if the spouse receiving payments gets remarried. In some situations, cohabitation with a romantic partner may also satisfy this requirement. Other scenarios in which alimony payments would end are:

  • The death of either spouse

  • The stipulated time frame has lapsed

Attorney’s Fees in Divorce Cases

A judge may require that the spouse who earns a higher income pay for the other spouse’s attorney’s fees. Legal fees can accrue significantly in highly contested cases or complex divorces. The court will consider any disparity that exists between the parties when deciding whether one has an increased ability to pay. Even if both spouses have considerable income or assets, if a significant difference exists between their incomes, the higher-earning spouse may be ordered to pay the other’s legal fees.

In most cases, only a portion of the legal fees are required to be covered by the other spouse. The other party’s attorney will be required to submit documentation of the fees and costs they’ve accumulated throughout the case or be asked to detail what the funds will be used for.

Unparalleled Legal Expertise in California Divorce Cases

The divorce attorneys at Sarieh Law Offices have helped countless clients navigate contentious divorces involving alimony, requests for attorney’s fees, and property division. If you would like personalized guidance regarding your divorce or have questions about paying your spouse alimony, contact us for a free case evaluation.