When a married couple in California decides to end their marriage, there’s always the possibility that the couple will agree to spousal support or if the higher-earning spouse is against it, a judge may decide to award spousal support despite the spouse’s objections.
Even though there’s always a possibility of spousal support, California spouses on the brink of divorce must know that it is not automatic, even if one spouse earns more than the other. It all depends on the couple’s individual circumstances.
For instance, if one spouse earns $200K per a year, and the other spouse earns just $20K a year, it’s highly likely that a judge would order the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal support.
On the other hand, if a husband has been earning $50K a year, and his wife earns $45K a year, and he’s going to be paying child support, there’s a possibility that a judge would not compel him to pay spousal support because he simply can’t afford it, not with Southern California’s high cost of living.
Essentially, if the higher-earning spouse does not voluntarily agree to pay spousal support, then the lower-earning spouse has every right to ask the court for spousal support. In California, spouses can ask for temporary orders for spousal and child support while their divorce actions are pending in the courts.
Ultimately, the judge has to review each spouse’s financial circumstances – the lower-earning spouse’s need for support and the higher-earning spouse’s ability or lack of ability to pay it – and the judge will decide whether or not to order it. Spousal support in California is handled on a case-by-case basis.
How long does spousal support last in California?
If spousal support is ordered, it’s typically ordered for one-half the length of the marriage. For example, if the couple was married for four years, the support would be ordered for two years. However, if the marriage was of “long duration” and it lasted 10 years or longer, a judge may order spousal support without an end date.
Changing or Modifying Spousal Support
As time passes, it’s not unusual for circumstances to change for a divorced couple. In some cases, either spouse may have the need to change the amount of the spousal support payments.
Typically, the paying spouse is looking for a downward modification or to stop the payments altogether, while the receiving spouse is seeking to increase their payments – an upward modification.
In order to get the court to agree to change the amount of spousal support, the petitioning party must show the court that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the original order was made.
Common reasons to modify spousal support:
- The paying spouse loses their job,
- The paying spouse has a cut in pay,
- The receiving spouse remarries,
- The receiving spouse increases their personal income significantly,
- The receiving spouse is not making an effort to become self-supporting, and
- The paying spouse suffers a terminal illness or is otherwise disabled and cannot afford to pay spousal support any longer.
If you are paying or receiving spousal support and you wish to ask the court for a modification, it would be in your best interests to seek advice from an Encino divorce lawyer from our firm, Cutter & Lax, Attorneys at Law.
Call now to schedule a consultation with our board certified family law specialist!