Wednesday, 12 June 2013 00:00

The Clash over Spousal Support

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 You may have seen a May issue of Time magazine that had an article on alimony, which is called spousal support in California.[1] The article details the growing movements challenging permanent spousal support, the kind that is paid until a spouse dies or the recipient remarries.

There are two sides to this issue. Those in favor of spousal support say the payments are justified because those spouses who may have stayed at home for many years gave up time not pursuing a career, not building marketable skills and not networking. According to the article, on the other side are a growing number of second wives who are seeking spousal support reform, claiming that their husbands may not be able to pay their spousal support.

 This is a difficult issue and, regardless of your perspective, spousal support awards widely vary due to differences in marriages and differences of judges. With this background of uncertainty, you may be wondering what the current state of spousal support is in California.

 In California under Fam. Code § 4320, the court may consider a variety of circumstances when choosing to award spousal support. Some of these considerations include the marketable skills of each spouse, their earning capacity, their needs based on their standard of living, their age and health, the duration of the marriage, the tax consequences to each, balancing their hardships, and any other factors that the court deems equitable.

 California courts have the power to modify support orders.[2] Case law has developed and requires that an order be modified if there was a material change in circumstances, such as the spousal support recipient choosing a new career path.[3] Therefore, spousal support may not necessarily be permanent in California, but modifying a support order would have to be justified.

 If you have questions about spousal support or concerns about divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney.

[2] Cal. Fam. Code § 3651(a).

[3] In re Marriage of West, 152 Cal. App. 4th 240 (2007).