Attorney Steven E. Springer at desk


Steven E. Springer Sept. 28, 2015

Alimony and moneyDivorce often causes financial difficulties, especially for a spouse who sacrificed a career in order to take care of children or the home. Alimony is an important aspect of many divorces, and it is important to understand the types of alimony. There are two main varieties of alimony in California—temporary and permanent. Each is designed to serve a different purpose.


Temporary alimony is used during a divorce. It consists of regular payments made to the lower-income spouse, made during the divorce proceedings and before the divorce is finalized. Temporary alimony is designed to help the payee spouse with finances until a more long-term solution is reached.


Permanent alimony is designed to keep the payee spouse at the standard of living established during the marriage. The payment of permanent alimony begins at the finalization of the divorce. Despite its name, this type of alimony is rarely permanent. California law provides guidelines addressing the amount and duration, but ultimately the decision is up to the judge’s discretion.

Generally, for marriages that lasted under 10 years, alimony payments will last half the length of the marriage. For example, for a six-year marriage, payments will be made for three years. For longer marriages, courts have more discretion as to how long payments will last. A judge will consider various factors and attempt to meet the standard of living established during the marriage. In marriages of long duration, courts also retain the ability to modify the alimony, even after payments have ceased.

Permanent alimony is generally paid periodically. However, it can also be paid in a lump sum, which is a fixed payment, and is generally made instead of a property settlement.


When determining alimony, the court must consider the goal that the payee spouse should become self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time. One major goal of alimony in California is to support the payee spouse until he or she gains the ability to be self-supporting. Thus, alimony payments may cover education, work training, time to get work experience, etc. This is especially important when one spouse left the workforce or worked only part-time, in order to raise children or to take care of the home.


In certain circumstances, courts may order one spouse to reimburse the other for the expenses of the payor spouse that were paid for by the payee spouse. This is commonly used for educational expenses. If one spouse financially supported the couple while the other spouse went to school, the supporting spouse may be able to be reimbursed for that cost. This is because the supporting spouse made those financial contributions with the understanding that both spouses would eventually benefit from the degree, but the divorce precluded the eventual reaping of those benefits.

Courts are much more likely to award reimbursement alimony if the couple divorces soon after the spouse receives the degree. An alternative approach is to award the supporting spouse part of the value of the other’s degree in a property settlement. Reimbursement payments are generally paid over time, along with the rest of the permanent alimony award, though they may be paid in a lump sum.

If you are considering a divorce, it is essential to understand how California’s alimony system works and how it will affect your divorce. Please contact an experienced San Jose family law attorney at The Law Offices of Steven E. Springer at 408-779-4700 to schedule a consultation in Morgan Hill, San Jose or Fremont.