Spousal support awards are intended to help one spouse maintain a certain quality of life following a divorce. When a court orders a support award, it will often take a look at the spouses’ incomes and earning capacities. As the Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, a judge has the power to tailor an award to help a spouse get his or her career back on track by lowering payments over time.
Husband and Wife separated in 2012, ending a 14-year marriage in which the couple had two children. They agreed that Husband would have primary physical custody of the kids and that he would temporarily pay Wife $4,000 per month in spousal support.
Husband said that he was making $80,000 as a call center manager and had been making regular payments made from the couple’s joint bank account to an account held separately by Wife. He also said that he was considering seeking a higher paying job, depending on the outcome of the divorce proceedings and a ruling on his support obligations.
The trial court ultimately ordered Husband to pay Wife $4,000 per month in spousal support for one year, $2,500 per month the next year and $1,000 per month for the third year. After that time, the court said the support would be reduced to zero.
The trial court found that Wife had worked in the hospitality industry until 2007 and was fluent in Turkish and English. She was not looking for a job, however, and said she didn’t intend to restart her career. Wife said she was bringing in about $3,500 per month by renting out rooms in her home and was seeking additional tenants. She also said she considered her job to be taking care of a student who rented a room in her home.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said the lower court didn’t err in ordering that the support payments be reduced to zero over time. Specifically, the Court said the tiered approach was intended to give Wife time to restart her previous career in the hospitality industry. “In sum, the court had before it evidence wife was well-educated, with a degree in hotel management,” the Fourth District said. “She had time to train for a job, whether in hotel management or another field, consistent with her duties to her children.”
As a result, the appeals court ordered that the staggered spousal support order be kept in place.
Spousal support is just one of a number of issues that often comes up in California divorce cases. San Jose divorce lawyer John S. Yohanan has more than 30 years of experience helping clients resolve support and other issues on optimal terms. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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