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What factors are considered when awarding alimony?

Stories of alimony awards are so often cited in divorce cases that most tend to expect such a benefit if and when they seek a dissolution of their marriage. Yet if you are going into your divorce proceedings expecting alimony, you should know that it is not always ordered automatically. Remember that alimony is only meant to support you if you are not immediately able to afford the same standard of living you enjoyed while married. Even if you need time to work your way to that point, any alimony benefits you might receive might end once you secure gainful employment. 

How can the court assess whether or not you might be able to support yourself following your divorce? According to Section 4320 of the California Family Code, it considers a number of different factors, including: 

  • Your professional skills
  • Your age and health status
  • Your earning capacity
  • Your property and assets (taking into account those awarded to you during property division)
  • Your obligations to your children

The court will then review how your ex-spouse stacks up against the same factors and determine if alimony is warranted, how much you might need and for how long you might need it. 

One major component that goes into the determination of both if and how much alimony is warranted are the fiscal and professional sacrifices that you made during your marriage. This includes you choosing to assume domestic responsibilities while your ex-spouse pursued their career. The longer you have been out of the workforce, the more time it may take for you to secure a job that allows you to support yourself and your kids. In a similar vein, the court will also consider whether you took on the role of the primary income earner so your ex-spouse could further their education. 

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