The Role (or Not) that Infidelity Plays in California Alimony Determinations

The Role (or Not) that Infidelity Plays in California Alimony Determinations

Alimony, more commonly referred to as “spousal support,” is a court-ordered monetary allowance that one spouse or partner must pay to the other for maintenance and support while the spouses are separated, involved in a matrimonial lawsuit, or after they are divorced.  The goal of spousal support is to assist the less financially independent spouse in becoming self-supporting. Spousal support is awarded in addition to child support or property distribution, but does infidelity play a role in whether the court should grant a request for alimony?

California Spousal Support Factors

Under California law, if a request for spousal support is made the judge must consider the following factors in determining whether to make an award and, if so, for how much:

  • The length of the marriage or partnership;
  • Needs based on the previous standard of living;
  • The other spouse’s ability to pay;
  • The level of care required by any children;
  • The age and health of the spouses;
  • Whether there was domestic violence, and
  • Whether one spouse assisted the other in building a career.

Although the judge is granted the authority to consider any other relevant factors, you will notice that, aside from the domestic violence exception, the reasons for the inevitable divorce are not taken into consideration.

California No-Fault Divorce Law

California is known as a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that you can file for divorce for one of two reasons: (1) one spouse’s incurable insanity or (2) irreconcilable differences. Unlike in other states that allow at-fault divorces, meaning that you can file for divorce on the grounds that one spouse was unfaithful, California does not permit such filings. Accordingly, California also does not permit the reasons for a marriage’s failure to be taken into consideration in awarding spousal support. Because the purpose of awarding spousal support is simply to ensure that one spouse does not fall into immediate poverty, taking infidelity into consideration in making an award would cause spousal support to become a type of punishment, which is not what it is designed to accomplish.

Types of California Alimony

When a petition for divorce is filed, one spouse may request the court grant him or her a temporary order of spousal support to help sustain him or her throughout the divorce proceedings. However, as the proceedings draw to a close, the Court will address the issue of permanent or long-term spousal support. Permanent spousal support is determined based on the parties’ marital standard of living and the factors of California Family Code Section 4320, whereas temporary spousal support is generally ordered by utilizing a computer program utilizing various income figures and deductions from pay (among other relevant fields in the computer program) to determine temporary spousal support. While temporary spousal support is intended to maintain the status quo (while the parties are going through a divorce or separation), permanent spousal support serves an entirely different purpose (one based on the marital standard of living).

Contact an Experienced California Spousal Support Attorney for More Information

If you are considering filing for spousal support or an order has been filed against you, the family law attorneys at Razai & Nefulda, APC are here to guide you through this complex process. Razai & Nefulda exclusively focuses on providing family law services throughout Orange and Los Angeles Counties. If you are involved in an alimony dispute or simply require additional information, contact us today for a confidential, free consultation at 714-663-9900.