Modification of Spousal Support Depends on Need and the Ability to Pay

California law sets forth a variety of factors for courts to review when determining whether to modify a spousal support order that was originally issued during a divorce proceeding. These factors all pertain to the parties’ respective need and ability to pay. A party seeking to reduce spousal support must provide evidence of a change in circumstances sufficient to justify the change. Courts will review and evaluate the evidence in each case, in accordance with the statute. It is important to understand that each case is unique in terms of the facts and how the law will apply to the situation. If you are considering divorce, you are encouraged to sort through the law and how it will affect your family as early as possible. An experienced family law attorney from the San Diego area would be able to guide you through the process with an eye to achieving the best possible settlement under the circumstances.

In a recent case, In re Marriage of Glick, the ex-husband sought to reduce spousal support based on an alleged change in circumstances. Here, the parties were married for 28 years and separated in 2006. In 2008, during divorce proceedings, the court awarded spousal support to the wife in the amount of $4,000 per month, citing the parties’ disparate incomes and that the wife had reached her maximum earning potential. In 2012, the ex-husband petitioned the court to either reduce or terminate his spousal support based on changed circumstances. He argued that his ex-wife had recently received a portion of his pension benefits, had an increase in her salary, and was in a relationship with another man. The court reviewed the factors set forth in § 4320 of the California Code and ultimately reduced the spousal support award to $2,600 per month. The ex-husband was not satisfied with this amount and appealed.

The court of appeals affirmed the reduction of support from $4,000 to $2,600 per month, pointing out that it was a “reasonable balance in the financial condition of parties to a 28-year marriage.” Specifically, the court reviewed the statutory factors, such as the earning capacities of the parties, the ability of the supporting spouse to pay spousal support, and the needs of the parties based on their marital standard of living. The ex-husband claimed, among other things, that the court disregarded his ex-wife’s cohabitation as a support factor under § 4323.

The court of appeals found that the ex-wife and this man were not “cohabitating,” but rather he spent half of his time at his own residence and half at hers. The parties are not married or engaged, and they do not have long-term relationship plans. The court determined that this relationship did not constitute a significant change in circumstances to justify a further modification of spousal support. The court concluded that that it would be unreasonable to reduce the support further, since both parties are entitled to live at the upper middle class marital standard of living, as long as the ex-husband has the ability to maintain that lifestyle.

This case nicely illustrates the complexity of a spousal support case, including the importance of the interplay between the applicable law and a specific set of facts. While this is an unpublished decision, and parties may not cite to or rely on the opinion in future cases, the underlying rationale may serve to inform a judge’s reasoning in a case arising under similar facts.

If you are confronting divorce, you are encouraged to contact a local, experienced family law attorney who can work to protect your rights. Roy M. Doppelt has been representing parties with divorce matters in Southern California for more than 20 years. Doppelt and Forney, APLC serves clients 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 and Forney, APLC through the law firm’s website or give us a call toll-free at (800) ROY IS IT (769-4748).

Related Blog Posts:

California Court Retained Jurisdiction to Award Long-Term Spousal Support

Court Denied Ex-Husband’s Request to Reduce Spousal Support Payments

Modification of Spousal Support Requires “Material Change in Circumstances”

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