Asked in Child Custody, Child Support, Divorce and Family Law for California

Q: If I want a divorce from my wife, am I required by to pay alimony before the separation/divorce is legal and on paper?

I have a 3 year old son with my current wife. She left the house days ago after a big fight and told me she wanted a divorce. She took my son and some items from our house and kept the divorce intent up for 3 days until she finally changed her mind when she saw I was going forward to find a lawyer. She then finally came back home. I am not sure I can trust this marriage nor the person I have married now, and am trying to understand how things work if I decide to divorce. Especially, I need to understand if I owe alimony right away or just child support until we are officially and legally separated or divorced on paper. To better explain, I just want to know if law requires me to support my wife while we are in the process of making the divorce legal and finalized and if so, how is it decided how much it will be. Child support is not even in question, I'll pay that immediately of course. I am alone here with no family and need to look out for myself with my only salary.

1 Lawyer Answer
Lorna M. Jaynes
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  • Divorce Lawyer
  • Palo Alto, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: There is no way to answer your question without far more information. Whether or not you will owe child support depends on the amount of time your son spends with each of you and each of your incomes. Whether or not you will owe spousal support depends on the length of the marriage, the ability and opportunity to earn, the assets and debts in question, the extent one earns less because they have been a stay a home parent, among other factors as well. And child support and spousal support don't have anything to do with wither or not you are legally separated or divorced. Your next steps should probably be predicated on whether or not you and your wife want to remain married or whether it might be best to separate and divorce, not on who might have to pay support. Ideally, since you have a child together and will be co-parents forever, you can find a way to end the marriage and have a positive and supporting co-parenting relationship.

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