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How courts determine spousal support payments

Like all states, California has its own laws for determining spousal support. Individual courts may take a variety of factors into account. These include the needs of the spouse receiving support, the other spouse's ability to pay, how long the marriage has lasted, and the couple's lifestyle, age and health. The court may also consider any non-marital assets and whether the couple has children under 18.

In some cases, alimony may only be ordered to cover a period that allows a spouse to go back to school or retrain for a higher-paying job. Spousal support can be modified if one person's financial situation changes, but because of the time, money and uncertainty involved in this modification, some couples agree to support that cannot be modified. It is not uncommon for spousal support to have an end date, but it generally only ends early on the death of one person or if the spouse receiving support gets married.

Some spouses may agree that the one who pays alimony will purchase life insurance. An agreement does not necessarily mean a spouse will always pay. Disability insurance may ensure that spousal support continues to be paid even if the person paying is injured. The person paying support might also consider buying an annuity contract, which helps ensure that payments are made on time.

People who are facing a divorce may be concerned about paying or receiving spousal support. They may want to talk to an attorney about this and other divorce-related financial matters. Divorce can mean a drop in the standard of living for some people, so both spouses may be concerned about ensuring financial security. Couples may come to a variety of creative arrangements when it comes to spousal support and property division. For example, one person might agree to accept more marital property in exchange for lower alimony payments.

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