Under basic California family law, courts have the authority to order one spouse to support the other as part of a divorce judgment. The state code sets forth a variety of factors to review in determining the amount of spousal support. Some of the items include (but are not limited to) the duration of the marriage, the earning capacity of the supported spouse, the age and health of the parties, the couple’s standard of living during the marriage, and the ability of the supporting spouse to pay spousal support. The court’s ruling with respect to spousal support can significantly affect each spouse’s financial standing after the divorce. If you are considering a separation or dissolution of your marriage, it is important to take steps to protect your financial rights. You are encouraged to consult with an experienced San Diego family law attorney as soon as possible.
In a recent California case, the wife failed to seek the assistance of counsel, and the court denied her requests to modify (in this case, increase and extend) the court’s original award of spousal support. Here, the parties were married in 1986 and separated in September 2002. The husband filed for divorce the following month. Throughout the dissolution proceedings, the parties were both represented by counsel. As part of the stipulated judgment, the husband was required to pay $1,000 in monthly support to the wife for seven and a half years, unless there was an application to extend support filed by the end of June 2012.
The judgment included a finding that the wife was in good health and had a degree in nursing, and she would be able to re-enter the job market with some re-training. In May 2012, without the assistance of counsel, the parties agreed to extend the support until December 2017 and to increase the amount to $1,200. But in November 2013, the wife filed a request to modify (increase) spousal support to $3,811 per month and to extend it beyond the date of termination. She asserted that she became ill after the divorce was finalized and was unable to work as a nurse as of February 2012 due to health problems. The husband responded with a financial declaration and argued, among other things, that there was no evidence of changed circumstances. The court agreed and denied the wife’s request. The court suggested to the wife that she “hire a lawyer.”
She filed a second request for modification of spousal support in April 2014, again without the assistance of counsel. The husband pointed out that for the second time, the wife did not present a change of circumstances necessary to warrant the increase. The court denied her request, and the wife appealed. The court of appeals reviewed the applicable law concerning modifications of spousal support and concluded that the trial court correctly denied both of the wife’s requests for a change of support. According to the court, the wife simply “rehashed” events that took place prior to the May 2012 order. She would have had to present evidence of a change of circumstances after that date. Her claims of illness, disability, and lack of finances were not relevant.
This case nicely illustrates the importance of seeking the assistance of counsel in a divorce-related matter. An experienced family law attorney would be able to navigate the process and protect your rights – all in accordance with applicable laws. For more than 20 years, Roy M. Doppelt has been representing clients in divorce matters in Linda Vista, Encinitas, Scripps Ranch, San Diego, and throughout Southern California. For a free consultation with a dedicated and experienced family lawyer, contact Doppelt & Forney through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).
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