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What does a judge consider when deciding alimony?

Many Californians find themselves giving up their education and careers in order to raise a family or further the needs of their spouse. While this may help a family develop in accordance with the couple's values, it can severely hinder that individual's earning power. Of course, if the marriage continues and he or she continues to be supported while caring for the family, then the issue never becomes a problem. But when a divorce occurs, this matter, which may have been ongoing for years or even decades, can suddenly redefine that individual's post-divorce life.

Without support from his or her spouse, one of these individuals can be left without the income to maintain the standard of living he or she enjoyed during marriage. This can be unfair, particularly when that person voluntarily surrendered the ability to further his or her education and career in order to care for the family or advance the other spouse's career. It is for this reason that alimony is often awarded in cases of marriage dissolution.

When determining whether to award spousal support and, if so, how much, a judge will look at a number of factors. Amongst these factors are the skills possessed by the seeking party that make him or her marketable in a certain profession, what the current job market for those skills looks like, the amount of time and money needed for that spouse to obtain necessary training and/or education, and how periods of unemployment due to caring for the family has hindered his or her earning ability. A judge will also consider the length of the marriage as well as whether there was any domestic violence between the parties.

The main purpose of alimony is to provide one spouse with enough income to maintain a certain standard of living, which should be close to that which was enjoyed during the marriage. Of course, alimony does not always last forever. Therefore, those who are seeking to obtain alimony, deny a party spousal support, modify existing alimony, or bring existing payments to an end should discuss the matter with an experienced family law attorney.

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