What Disqualifies a Person From Alimony?

Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is a monetary award that could be given to one spouse and paid for by the other as a result of a dissolution of marriage or legal separation in California. The courts will examine multiple factors when determining whether a spouse qualifies for alimony. Certain facts could disqualify a spouse from alimony; typically, based on his or her actions and behaviors during the marriage.

What Is Alimony?

According to our Orange County alimony attorney, Alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other after a divorce or legal separation in California. It is a court order, meaning once alimony has been granted, it is not optional; violating an alimony agreement could lead to the person being held in contempt of court. Whether or not a spouse qualifies for alimony will be determined by the courts after a careful review of the case.

Can a Spouse Get Disqualified From Alimony?

Certain behaviors and criminal actions can disqualify an individual from receiving alimony in California. According to California Family Code 4320, documented evidence of a history of domestic violence between the parties or perpetrated by either party against a child can play a role in the court’s determination of an alimony award pending a divorce or separation.

Domestic violence is defined in California Family Code 6211 as abuse perpetrated against a:

  • Spouse or former spouse
  • Cohabitant or former cohabitant
  • A person with whom the abuser has or has had a dating or engagement relationship
  • A person who shares a child with the abuser
  • The child of the abuser

In addition, the criminal conviction of an abusive spouse can be considered in reducing or eliminating a spousal support award. This can include convictions for violent sexual felonies and domestic violence felonies. In a case where certain criminal convictions exist within five years of the filing for a dissolution of marriage, an award of spousal support to the convicted spouse from the injured spouse is prohibited under California Family Code 4324.5.

Who Might Be Awarded Alimony in California?

Unlike a child support decision in Orange County, which is determined using a specific financial formula, whether or not to award alimony is largely up to a judge’s discretion. A judge in California will evaluate an individual case to determine if one spouse is eligible to receive financial support from the other.

Under state law, a judge may consider all of the following circumstances when making an alimony decision:

  • Whether each party is capable of earning enough to maintain the standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
  • The marketable skills of the supported party and periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to devote time to domestic duties.
  • The ability of the supported party to find gainful employment without interfering with taking care of dependent children that are in that party’s custody.
  • The extent to which the financially supported party in a marriage contributed to the other spouse’s attainment of a job, education, training, license, certification or career position.
  • The ability of the supporting party to afford alimony payments after the divorce, taking into account his or her earning capacity, income, assets and standard of living.
  • The duration of the marriage. While there is no minimum required marriage length to receive alimony, these awards are more common after longer marriages.

The key factors analyzed in an alimony decision are each spouse’s income, ability to earn and standards of living established during the marriage. If there is a history of violence, abuse or certain criminal convictions, however, this could bar a spouse from receiving alimony payments under California law. For more information about alimony, contact Boyd Law to request a free consultation with an attorney.