There are a number of factors that go into a court’s decision about whether to order one divorcing spouse to pay the other spousal support. One of them is the receiving spouse’s age. The other is his or her ability to work. So what happens when the person is old enough to stop working? California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained that a spouse has the right to retire and may be able to get spousal support if he or she exercises that right.
Husband and Wife separated in March 2014, following some 13 years of marriage. Husband was 68 years old at the time, and Wife was 66. Both spouses had retired from their jobs as a firefighter and a personal assistant in a real estate office, respectively. Although Wife was also a license real estate agent, she never used her license. The court said the spouses agreed that it was Husband who had urged Wife to retire so that the two could travel. A trial court judge eventually ordered Husband to pay Wife $4,000 per month in spousal support.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said Wife had the right to retire during the marriage and to remain retired following the divorce. State law instructs family courts to consider a list of factors in deciding whether to award spousal support and how to set the award. Among those factors are the spouses’ ages and the goal that each spouse had in becoming self-supporting. In this case, the Court said the trial judge didn’t abuse his discretion by simply deciding that Wife’s age outweighed the need for Wife to become self-supporting.
“The court’s decision shows it considered the goal of the supported party becoming self-supporting, but accorded greater weight to Wife’s age,” The Fourth District said. “Thus, the court did not miss a required factor; rather, it afforded greater weight to the age factor.”
The appeals court further explained that the judge did appear to take a good, hard look at whether Wife could get back into the workforce. It said there was no evidence that there were any jobs available to Wife, given her age and the fact that she had then been retired for nearly a decade. Although Wife was bringing in about $800 per month in Social Security benefits and did own some separate property, the trial judge said that wasn’t enough to maintain the standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage.
Spousal support is just one of the complicated legal issues that can come up when a couple decides to divorce. If you’re considering a divorce or are grappling with child support and other issues in California, contact San Jose divorce attorney John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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