California Court Addresses Temporary versus Permanent Spousal Support

2010-1244710-m (1).jpgThe duration of divorce proceedings varies a great deal from case to case. There are many factors that contribute to lengthening the process, such as disputes over child support and custody, property division, and spousal support. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a case, reaching a final divorce judgment may take some time. In such cases, questions of the amount of “temporary” spousal support are likely to come up and to be addressed by the court. Temporary and permanent spousal support serve different purposes and are addressed by the courts in different ways. If you are considering a divorce, it is important to protect your financial interests at the earliest stage in the proceedings. To do so, you are encouraged to consult an experienced San Diego family law attorney who can competently handle your case.

In a recent divorce case, In re Marriage of Kamzan, the husband appealed the court’s order awarding his ex-wife spousal support, among other things. Here, the parties were married in December 2002, and in March 2011 the husband filed for divorce. He is an attorney and a medical doctor who practices workers’ compensation and medical malpractice law. The wife is a court reporter. They each have children from a previous marriage. A few months after the husband filed for divorce, the wife applied for an order to show cause requesting spousal support, attorney fees, accounting fees, and costs. She provided the court with evidence of the husband’s income for the years 2009, 2010, and part of 2011. In addition to other items, the court ordered the husband to pay $3,654 each month in temporary spousal support.

The husband appealed, arguing that there was no substantial evidence for the spousal support order. He claimed that he earned a great deal less in 2011 as compared with the two prior years. The court determined the amount based on evidence of the husband’s income for the three years prior to filing for divorce. Under California law, the court is expected to look at a “snapshot” of a party’s income when fixing the amount of temporary support, and not only look at the best or worst years. The court further described the difference in purpose between temporary and permanent spousal support. Under the statute, a court may order temporary spousal support to maintain the living conditions and standards of the parties as close to the way it had been as possible, pending trial. In contrast, a permanent spousal support award is to provide financial assistance as determined by the financial circumstances of the parties after their divorce and the division of community property. Of some significance is the notion that courts are not bound by any set of statutory guidelines when setting the amount of temporary support.

Here, the court upheld the award as it was based on the husband’s income for the years immediately prior to the filing of the divorce petition, when the evidence showed that the husband’s income for the two years prior to the divorce was found to be 20 times the amount he claimed to have earned in the year that he filed the dissolution petition. While this is an unpublished opinion, and parties may not cite to or rely on it in future cases, the court’s conclusions may certainly inform later cases in this jurisdiction.

A court will award permanent spousal support based on a set of statutory factors. An experienced family law attorney would be able to assess your case to determine your financial rights in divorce. Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties in family law matters for more than 20 years. Doppelt & Forney serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt & Forney through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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California Law Governs Request for Spousal Support in Divorce Proceedings