Divorce a major life change, and while uncertainties about the future are common, knowing that you can move forward on your own can be a relief. Those who are going through a divorce may wonder how their lifestyle will change post-divorce, particularly when it comes to finances. This may be especially true if one spouse earned significantly more than the other or if one spouse stayed out of the workforce entirely to care for the family and now must find a job to support themselves.

The state of California recognizes these challenges. Thus, if a couple divorces, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal support — also known as alimony — to the lesser-earning spouse. While there is no guarantee regarding how much support will be paid and for how long, there are several factors the court will consider when ordering spousal support.

One factor the court will consider is what each spouse’s needs are with regards to the standard of living they enjoyed while married, along with each party’s earning capacity and ability to maintain that standard of living. This may be especially important to wealthy couples who enjoyed a certain lifestyle while married and are now facing changes to that lifestyle.

The court will also consider whether one party assisted the other party in obtaining a degree or professional license related to their occupation. If a party’s career was impacted by unemployment or by staying out of the workforce to care for the family, this will also be considered.

If the couple has a child, and one party does not have a job, the court will consider whether entering the workforce would make it too difficult for that party to care for their child. Any history of domestic violence while the couple was married will also be considered.

Each party’s age and health will be considered, along with the assets and debts each party was awarded in the property division process. How long the couple was married will also be considered. Finally, the tax consequences of ordering spousal support will be considered.

It is important that an award of spousal support is fair to both parties. For this reason, each party going through a divorce generally retains the services of their own attorney. With the right legal help, appropriate decisions can be made regarding spousal support and other divorce legal issues.