California Court Discusses Spousal Support Obligations

In many marriages, one spouse will be the main income earner while the other bears the primary responsibility of running the household and raising the children. When couples with disparate incomes divorce, the higher-earning spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support. Some parties do not accept support obligations willingly, however, and will go to great means to attempt to evade or reduce them. As shown in a recent California case, though, support obligations will only be modified if it is warranted by the relevant statutory law. If you intend to seek a divorce and have questions regarding spousal support, it is advisable to contact a skilled San Diego divorce attorney to discuss your rights.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the husband and wife were married for seventeen years and had three children during their marriage. In 2014, they divorced. The husband’s gross annual income was indicated as approximately $196,000 in the stipulated dissolution judgment. He was ordered to pay spousal support of approximately $4,300 per month and child support of around $3,600 per month. In 2017, the husband moved to amend his support obligations. The court found that there was a sufficient change of circumstances to warrant a modification. Specifically, his yearly income had decreased by $10,000, and his oldest child reached the age of majority, so support was no longer required. As such, the Trial Court issued an order decreasing spousal support to $3,800 a month. Two years later, the husband again moved to modify his spousal support obligations. The Trial Court denied the motion, and the husband appealed.

Modifications of Support Obligations

The husband’s grounds for the second request were that his income had decreased, the wife had made no good faith effort to become self-sufficient, and the second child had reached the age of majority and no longer required support. The Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court ruling.

Under California law, courts have broad discretion in determining whether to modify a support order. In using that discretion, they must apply the factors set forth in Section 4320 of the California Family Law Code. The first factor, the standard of living established during the marriage, is used as the reference point against which the remaining factors, like the assets of the parties, the ability to pay, the length of the marriage, and the age and health of the parties, are measured.

In the subject case, the husband alleged the Trial Court failed to consider the factors set forth in Section 4320 when it did not articulate its consideration of all of the factors in its decision. The Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that the Trial Court was not required to make express findings on each factor. Additionally, the Court of Appeals noted that the Trial Court did expressly consider three of the factors set forth in Section 4320. Thus, it affirmed the Trial Court ruling.

Speak to a Trusted California Family Law Attorney

The trusted San Diego family law attorneys of Doppelt and Forney APLC are well-versed in what it takes to achieve successful results in a dispute over spousal support, and if you hire us, we will work diligently on your behalf. You can contact us by calling 800-769-4748 or by using the form online to set up a free and confidential conference.





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