Effect of Retirement on Spousal Support

Financial matters such as spousal support are some of the hotly contested issues in family law. Parties are encouraged to settle such issues on their own but when they are unable to arrive at an agreement, the courts become involved. In these cases, the family court is required to determine the terms of spousal support using several factors such as the age of the parties, the needs of each spouse, and the standard of living that they had while married.

What happens to spousal support when I retire?

California law states that a former spouse that is paying alimony, and is also eligible for retirement, does not need to keep working in order to supply continuous payment obligations. However, that does not mean they are completely free from alimony, especially if they retire voluntarily or too early. The court will decide whether a modification is necessary based on the timing of the retirement or the circumstances based on the health of the retiree. 


When a retired spouse resumes work during the marriage, how then is the family court supposed to treat the retirement in arriving at the amount of spousal support due to him or her?

In a recent case, the California Court of Appeals had the opportunity to rule on the matter.

The case stemmed from a family court’s order for the husband to pay the wife monthly spousal support in the amount of $4,000. The relevant facts surrounding the case are:

  • The parties were married for approximately 13 years before they divorced
  • The parties did not have any common children
  • At the time of their divorce, both spouses were already retired, having reached the ages of 68 and 66 years old
  • For a brief period after the wife’s retirement, the wife re-entered the workforce as a personal assistant

The husband contested the family court’s order for spousal support because it concluded that the wife had a right to retire.


The family court’s ruling was affirmed with the Court of Appeal stating that the California Family Code requires a consideration of:

  • The needs of each party based on their marital standard of living and
  • The capacity of each party to maintain their marital standard of living

The court noted that retirement was the prevailing standard of living while the parties were still married. And that marital standard of living is not a mathematical standard but a general estimation of the station of life that the parties had achieved. In determining the amount of spousal support due to a party and the duration of support, the family court is allowed wide latitude of discretion.

marital standard of living is not a mathematical standard but a general estimation of the station of life that the parties had achieved.


Divorce has life-changing effects not only in your relationships but also in your future finances. If you’re contemplating a divorce or dissolution of your marriage, an experienced family law attorney can inform you of your family law rights.

In Los Angeles, California, the family law attorneys of Lavinsky Law are committed to helping clients understand their rights and duties arising from divorce. We welcome your call today at (310) 929-6411 to arrange for your free consultation.