A court ruling on spousal support in a California divorce case is required to consider the standard of living established during the marriage in deciding whether a spouse is entitled to monetary support from the other spouse and in calculating how much that support should be. In a recent case, the state’s Sixth District Court of Appeals explained that this determination may be delayed in situations where the spouses agree to a certain level of support.
After deciding to divorce, Husband and Wife entered in to an agreement providing that Husband would pay Wife more than $1,900 per month in spousal support. Those support payments were scheduled to end if Wife remarried, if either spouse died, or at the end of March 2020. The agreement also stated that the amount of the payments would be subject to review by a family court. The court initially ordered that the payment remain in effect at the same level after reviewing income and expense documents from both spouses.
Two months later, the trial court denied Husband’s request to reduce the support payments. Husband argued that at least $3,000 in monthly income should be imputed to Wife because she was unemployed and hadn’t sufficiently been looking for work. Wife, on the other hand, argued that she made significant efforts to find and keep a job. She also noted that she’d been unable to cover all of her monthly expenses without borrowing money. The court found that Wife had made reasonable efforts to find work. It also explained that there didn’t appear to be any change in circumstances since the spouses entered the support agreement earlier in the year.
In reaching this decision, the trial court denied Husband’s request that it determine the spouses’ marital standard of living. The court said those findings weren’t necessary because there was no evidence that anything had changed since Husband and Wife agreed on the spousal support amount.
Affirming the judgment on appeal, the Sixth District disagreed with Husband that the agreement required the trial court to determine the spouses’ standard of living. Instead, the Court said, the agreement provided that the trial court could make such a determination but wasn’t obligated to do so. As a result, the Court found that the trial judge was warranted in ruling that such a determination wasn’t necessary unless the one of the spouses claimed that there had been a change in circumstances. “Although the parties stipulated to support without identifying a marital standard of living, the law does not entitle appellant to a post-judgment marital standard of living determination—at least not without a change of circumstances showing to support a modification request,” the Court concluded.
Spousal support is just one of the many legal issues that often arise in California divorce cases. With more than 30 years of experience, San Jose divorce lawyer John S. Yohanan is an accomplished divorce attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve spousal support and other matters on optimal terms. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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