California courts may award alimony as a means of alleviating the economic burden that may otherwise be felt by a spouse who does not earn an income or whose income would be insufficient to maintain his or her standard of living following divorce. The type of alimony ordered, if any, is heavily fact-dependent and may be significantly different from case to case.
The factors involved in an alimony analysis include the relative abilities of the parties to earn money, the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage, the duration of the marriage and the financial condition, physical condition and age of the spouses. A court will also consider the ability of the spouse who would pay spousal support to take care of himself or herself while making payments.
An alimony order may require payments only temporarily or they may be permanent. Even so-called permanent alimony typically ends when the recipient remarries. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to allow the recipient a chance to start earning sufficient income, at which time payments stop. Two other common types are reimbursement alimony and lump-sum alimony. The former may be ordered when the recipient must cover certain expenses such as the costs associated with a training course. The latter is often ordered instead of the receipt of other assets in property division.
An alimony order is more difficult to enforce than child support. Non-payment of child support may result in liens and wage garnishment by the government, while non-payment of alimony requires the recipient to initiate legal proceedings. A family law attorney may be helpful in a situation where a spouse is not making required spousal support payments by drafting the necessary documents to pursue court enforcement.
Source: Findlaw, "California Spousal Support or Alimony Law", September 08, 2014