When we discuss the basics of alimony on this blog, we often talk about it as though alimony is always ordered by a court. In theory, this is how alimony is handled under California law. In practice however, an alimony order usually has its origins in an agreement signed by the parties as part of their divorce settlement.
While some issues and some divorces can only be resolved by going to court, it's much more common for the parties to reach an agreement on their own. By settling their issues out of court, they avoid a lot of costs and delay, and generally enjoy a greater sense of control over their outcome. However, even in relatively amicable divorces, it's not easy for the parties to negotiate issues like property division and child custody. For a lot of people, alimony is an especially difficult subject to talk about.
Alimony, or spousal/partner support, as it is known under California law, is a series of regular payments from one ex-spouse/partner to another. The arrangement may be temporary or semi-permanent, and may begin before the divorce is finalized, or after the final divorce decree.
California courts provide resources for calculating what spousal support amounts would be fair, given the receiving spouse's needs and the paying spouse's ability to pay. However, many people use these calculations as baselines, negotiating amounts that are more suited to their personal situations.
Spousal support can make a big difference in situations where one spouse has significantly less earning potential than the other. However, it can also be a source of frustration and resentment. An experienced family law attorney can help people understand their options and decide on a plan that is right for them.