Infidelity is one of the most common reasons for a marriage to end in divorce. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of your marriage unraveling because your spouse cheated on you, you might be wondering whether you can avoid paying alimony since you were not at fault. Although some states still allow you to file for divorce based on adultery, California is a no-fault divorce state. Cheating does not reduce or eliminate your spouse’s eligibility to receive alimony. However, alimony is not automatic or mandatory in California, and there might be a few steps you can take to protect yourself.
Types of Alimony in California
Alimony, or spousal support, is the higher-earning spouse’s financial payment to the other during and/or after a divorce, usually to help the recipient get back on their feet or maintain their standard of living. There are two types of alimony in California: temporary and long-term.
- Temporary Alimony – Usually paid while the divorce process is underway to help maintain the standard of living until the divorce is final. This spousal support is meant to help the recipient become financially self-sufficient, given enough time. Lasting anywhere from 6 months to several years, the judge usually relies on a preset formula to determine the amount.
- Long-term Alimony – Once the divorce is final, the judge might order spousal support that continues for an extended period of time. Long-term alimony is sometimes called rehabilitative alimony because the judge will usually encourage the recipient to try to become self-supporting through education, training, or work experience.
Although spousal support is usually paid monthly, there is an option known as lump sum alimony where the individual pays the entire alimony debt at once. This option might be preferable to avoid further interactions with the recipient.
How Does the Judge Decide?
When determining the amount of support and length of time the alimony should be paid, California family court judges consider several factors, including:
- Duration of marriage – For a shorter marriage, alimony payments might not be ordered.
- Age and health of both spouses – If the lower-earning spouse is still young and healthy, they are more likely to become self-supporting in the future so might receive less alimony.
- Standard of living while married – If a couple had a high standard of living while they were married, a judge might order alimony payments to the lower-earning spouse so that they can sustain that lifestyle alone.
- Earning capacity of each spouse – The spouse with the higher earning capacity is more likely to be ordered to pay alimony.
- Any other relevant factors – This catchall category allows the judge leeway to consider all other issues when deciding on fair spousal support.
Can I Avoid Paying Alimony?
Since alimony is not mandatory in California, you might be able to avoid paying spousal support. If your spouse decides to cohabitate with a new partner, for instance, those new living arrangements might effectively ease his or her financial situation, which might negate the need for alimony. Alternatively, if you can provide evidence that your spouse is able to work and support themselves without additional financial help, any alimony payments ordered might be decreased or terminated. Choosing a knowledgeable attorney can significantly increase your chances of avoiding alimony payments.
An Experienced Advocate Can Help You
Divorce can be complicated and emotionally draining. When infidelity is involved, divorce can be even more stressful. Having an experienced team on your side can ensure that decisions are made in your best interest, and you are protected. At Lonich Patton Ehrlich Policastri, we have an expert team specializing in Family Law with in-depth understanding of spousal support issues and guidelines. If you have questions about alimony, please call us today at (408) 553-0801 for a free 30-minute consultation. We’re here to help.