California Law Governs Request for Spousal Support in Divorce Proceedings

Divorce clearly alters a family’s dynamic, and it can be an emotionally trying time for spouses and children alike. Dissolving a marriage also has the potential to bring about many unexpected financial changes. Fortunately, many sections of the California Family Code serve to protect and preserve the family’s interests in light of the particular circumstances surrounding the divorce. This can be especially reassuring to parties who may fear that, in addition to their family breaking up, their current standard of living may suffer as well. An order of spousal support is one way to help preserve the marital lifestyle even after the parties split up. If you are considering divorce, it is important to reach out to a local San Diego family law attorney who can assess your case and help protect your financial rights throughout the process.

Spousal support is often a significant part of a divorce judgment. It is the amount of money that a court orders one spouse to pay the other each month. In some cases, it is the only income a spouse will have after the marriage ends. Section 4320 of the Family Code outlines a variety of items that a court is expected to consider when determining the amount of spousal support. These factors include: 1) the duration of the marriage; 2) the amount that each person would need to maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage; 3) the amount that each person pays or can pay to maintain the standard of living they had during the marriage (including earning potential); 4) whether having a job would make it too difficult to care for the children; 5) any property and debts; 6) each spouse’s age and health; 6) whether one spouse helped the other get an education, a professional license, career, or training; 7) whether there was domestic violence in the marriage; 8) whether one spouse’s career was affected by unemployment or by taking care of the children or home; and 9) the tax impact of spousal support.

In a recent case, which we discussed in an earlier blog post concerning the division of property, the court of appeals reversed the lower court’s decision denying a wife’s request for spousal support. Although the trial court reviewed the statutory factors enumerated in section 4320, the judge concluded that the wife did not need spousal support due to the income she earned as a nurse, the substantial assets she received through the division of property, and income she could earn by investing those assets. The court found that she would be able to maintain or possibly exceed the marital standard of living.

The court of appeals found that, although the trial court has broad discretion under the statute to weigh the factors under section 4320, the court must recognize and apply each applicable statutory factor to the case before it. Here, the court found that the lower court did not take into account the wife’s most recent financial information concerning her income and expenses, and it concluded that the record lacked substantial evidence to support the court’s finding. The court is now directed to make new findings in accordance with the most current financial information available. As this case illustrates, it is critically important to consult with an experienced family law attorney who can advocate for your rights to spousal support in a divorce proceeding.

Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties in divorce matters for more than 20 years. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients throughout Southern California, including San Diego, Encinitas, La Jolla, and Chula Vista. For a free consultation, contact Doppelt and Forney, APLC through our website, or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

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