Can I Keep My Alimony Payments if I Live on SSI in California?

By Heather Frances J.D.

California courts can award alimony, or spousal support, to either spouse during a divorce. Once it’s awarded, it cannot be taken away just because you receive government benefit payments. Whether you receive alimony at all depends in part on your income so the court may consider your SSI benefit payments before awarding alimony. However, if your alimony payments increase your income too much, you might become ineligible for government benefits.


Unlike child support, California courts do not award alimony based on a set formula. Instead judges review factors dictated by California law to decide whether to award alimony and, if alimony is appropriate, how much to award. The factors include whether your earning capacity is enough to maintain the standard of living established during your marriage, the contributions you and your spouse made to each other’s careers, your spouse’s financial ability to pay alimony, the duration of your marriage, your age and health and your employability. None of the factors directly addresses what happens when one spouse receives government benefits, but California allows the court to consider any information that is just and equitable under the circumstances.


Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a program administered by the U.S. Social Security Administration that is designed to help elderly, blind and disabled Americans who have little or no income. You must be age 65 or over, legally blind or disabled to the extent that you are unable to do any substantial gainful activity. You must also have a limited income, including money you receive from work or other sources, and limited resources, which are things you own.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Alimony as Income

Though alimony cannot be taken away if you receive SSI, the amount of alimony you receive may affect the amount of SSI you receive. Alimony is considered part of your unearned income when the government determines your SSI eligibility and benefit amount, so alimony is considered in your SSI eligibility calculations in the same way as if you had earned that alimony by working a job. Depending on the amount of your alimony award and your other income and resources, alimony could make you completely ineligible for SSI.

Termination of Alimony

In California, alimony frequently lasts for half the length of the marriage if your marriage lasted 10 years or less, though the court may award permanent alimony if appropriate. Like the alimony award itself, the duration of alimony payments is also left to the judge’s discretion. If your alimony terminates at some point after your divorce, your SSI eligibility changes based on your newly decreased income. You may then qualify for increased SSI benefits.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
SSI & Inheritance


Related articles

How Does Divorce Affect Food Stamps?

Eligibility for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – often called food stamps – is primarily based on your income and family size, which can change after divorce, but the exact method of calculation varies by state. For example, some states count the value of your vehicle while others do not. However, divorce itself does not affect your eligibility.

Washington State Child Support Laws for Children Over the Age of 18 Years

Divorce doesn't always wait until your children are old enough to fly the nest – nor does it always happen when they're little. If you and your spouse part ways while your children are teenagers, some additional rules apply regarding their support. Those laws in Washington State aren't much different from the laws of other states.

How to Divorce at 60 Years Old

Divorce is never an easy process, and when you’re nearing retirement age, a whole host of new considerations crops up. Although you generally don’t have to worry about custody fights and child support, different disputes can take the place of those issues. Health insurance, Social Security and other retirement benefits become more of a factor.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can Child Support Be Taken From a Social Security Check?

Child support is usually paid by withholding income from a paying parent’s paycheck. However, many parents who receive ...

How to Calculate a California Alimony Payment

There is no guaranteed formula available for calculating an alimony payment in California. However, you can make a ...

Can Child Support Use Veterans Disability as Income?

Child support is set by state courts under guidelines established by state laws. Federal benefits, like those ...

Can I Go After My Ex-Husband's New Wife's Income for More Child Support in California?

As part of a California divorce decree, the court generally issues a child support order, which is based on your living ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED