California law empowers courts in divorce cases to order that one spouse pay the other monthly support. These support awards are designed to help the spouse receiving them meet monthly expenses and maintain a standard of living similar to the one enjoyed by the spouses during the marriage. As a recent case out of California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals makes clear, courts have a fair amount of power to decide where to set the support level and whether or not to change it down the road.
Husband and Wife separated in 2009, following some 18 years of marriage. The couple had two children, who were adults by the time the Fourth District took up the case. A trial judge granting their divorce ordered Husband to pay Wife more than $2,700 in spousal support per month and to maintain a $400,000 life insurance policy payable to Wife in the event of his death. The court further explained that Wife was expected to become self-supporting as soon as possible.
Husband later went back to court and convinced the judge to reduce the support award to about $2,000 per month. The judge also decreased the required life insurance coverage to $250,000. That was largely because Wife had become fully employed and was receiving nearly $800 per month in Husband’s pension benefits. The court declined, however, to further reduce the support and insurance requirement based on Husband’s claim that he’d been making payments on his daughter’s student loans. Wife asserted that it was Daughter who was paying some $300 per month on the loans.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in declining to further reduce the spousal support and insurance requirement. “We review a trial court’s spousal support orders for abuse of discretion,” the Court explained. “Under that standard of review, we may not substitute our judgment for the judgment of the trial court; rather, we only determine whether there is substantial evidence in the record for whatever factual findings the trial court made and whether, in light of the facts for which there is substantial evidence, the trial court’s ruling is reasonable and otherwise lawful.” In this case, the Court said the trial judge’s decision was lawful.
Here, the Court said the trial judge properly reduced the spousal support by the amount Wife was receiving from Husband’s pension. Although Wife was also making more money ($900) from her new job, the Court said it still wasn’t enough to meet her monthly expenses.
If you’re considering divorce or are grappling with spousal support and other related issues in California, contact San Jose spousal support lawyer 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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