Alimony & Taxes in California: What You Need to Know

Alimony, otherwise known as "spousal support" is money that one spouse pays to support the spouse with less financial resources. While California's divorce laws allow the courts to award spousal support to a former spouse during a divorce case, it is not automatic.

Alimony is money that a spouse pays directly to their former spouse. On the other hand, indirect alimony can be made in the form of cash payments to a third party to pay for a former spouse's home such as rent or a mortgage.

These payments do NOT qualify as alimony:

  • Child support
  • Property settlements
  • Retirement benefits, because these are community property
  • Voluntary payments that were made before the divorce decree or agreement

Is spousal support taxable income?

Spousal support is considered taxable income in the year that you receive it. As a taxpayer, you must report your alimony as income on line 11 of the federal Form 1040 – this figure carries through to the California return as well.

Is alimony paid tax deductible?

Under California law, all alimony payments must be reported as "income" by the recipient. However, the person paying alimony may deduct alimony payments providing they are:

  • Paid by cash, checks, or money orders.
  • The divorce instrument does not state that the payment is NOT alimony.
  • You are not living with your former spouse.
  • Your payments are not being treated as child support.

While alimony payments are tax-deductible, please note that child support payments are not. If your case involves child support payments and alimony payments, it may be difficult to distinguish whether payments are for tax purposes, alimony or child support.

In such cases, we recommend discussing the specifics with a Los Angeles divorce attorney from our firm, or consulting your tax advisor.

Searching for a divorce lawyer in Los Angeles? Call Claery & Hammond, LLP to schedule your free, initial consultation. We'd be glad to answer your questions and offer you advice!