Do I Have to Pay Spousal Support?

I don’t want to have to pay spousal support to my ex for the rest of our lives. Are there any options available to me? We have been married for 22 years and all three of our children are now adults.

There are many factors involved in determining spousal support and there are no one size fits all answers. The law says that couples owe each other a duty to care for one another even after divorce; this is called a fiduciary duty. From this concept comes spousal support.

In determining support, the court not only takes into consideration the financial standings of each party but also specific factors found in Family Code section 4320. There are thirteen factors including length of marriage, education, work history, marital standard of living, and domestic violence.

Some of the instances that the court would consider when stopping support are: the cohabitation of the supported party and if the supported party is no longer in need of support (i.e. has become employed and now has a lifestyle similar to the marital lifestyle). If the supported party is convicted of domestic violence against the supporting party, he or she may be barred from receiving support.

Spousal support determinations are very tricky as some income is not considered for the purposes of calculating support, such as SSI benefits. Alternatively, some fringe benefits are considered income like cell phone allowances, meal allowances and bonuses.

Furthermore, the amount of support awarded as temporary support (while the divorce is pending) is generally a higher amount than what the permanent (when the proceedings are concluded) order will be. When making permanent orders, the court must use the factors in Family Code section 4320 to determine an amount. When making temporary orders, the court may use the support calculator computer program.

The Court can also order a party receiving support to seek employment with the intention to become self-sufficient. This is also referred to as a Gavron warning. If the receiving party fails to seek employment, the Court can impute an earning capacity to that person at an amount similar to if they were working. This can significantly affect the amount of spousal support they receive from the other party.

As a general rule of thumb, marriages of less than ten years typically result in an award payable for half of the length of the marriage. Marriages over ten years result in lifetime support awards which terminate on the death of either party, remarriage of the supported party, or further order of the court. Spousal support is generally modifiable when there is a change in circumstances. In some instances, the parties can agree that neither will seek support, which is perfectly acceptable. Of course, there are exceptions to these generalizations and one must remember that each case is unique and is treated as such.

The information in this post is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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