Articles Posted in Spousal Support

Published on:

California courts look at a number of factors in deciding whether to award spousal support in a divorce case. These include the ability of the spouse seeking support to make money and become self-supporting. A court has to find that the circumstances have sufficiently changed in order to alter the spousal support award later down the road. As a recent case out of California’s Second District Court of Appeals shows, the fact that the receiving spouse is now getting money from other sources – like a pension or Social Security benefits – may not be enough.

dollar billHusband and Wife were married for some 24 years before a court granted their divorce in 2009. Husband was making about $7,000 per month at the time, while Wife – who had not worked since the couple got married – had no income. A judge ordered Husband to pay Wife $1,700 in spousal support. Husband also paid Wife $125,000 for her share of the family home, which he kept. Wife later moved to Miami, where she said she wasn’t able to find work.

Husband went back to court about five years later and asked a judge to eliminate his spousal support obligation. He explained that Wife was now eligible to receive payments from two of his pensions and would soon be eligible for Social Security benefits. He also argued that Wife hadn’t made a reasonable effort to find work. Wife later acknowledged that she was receiving about $1,800 per month in pension payments and Social Security benefits. She asserted, however, that she couldn’t find a job because she had been out of the workforce for some three decades, had a third-grade education, and was not a fluent English speaker.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

dollar signHusband 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.

Continue reading

Published on:

Marital settlement agreements can be useful in many divorce cases because they allow divorcing spouses to decide for themselves how some or all of the issues will be resolved, instead of leaving them for a judge. As a recent case out of California’s Third District Court of Appeals makes clear, however, it is important to make sure that you have all of the information you need in front of you before you sign an agreement. That’s because they’re tough to undo.

Wedding RingsHusband and Wife separated in 2009, following some 26 years of marriage in which the couple had at least one child. Husband went to medical school during the marriage and later became a doctor. Wife was in school pursuing a master’s degree in education at the time of the split. The couple eventually entered into a marital settlement agreement – approved by a court in 2011 – in which Husband pledged to pay Wife $3,750 per month in spousal support. The agreement said Wife’s goal was to become self-supporting and provided that the support payment could potentially be modified starting in 2012.

Wife went back to court in 2012, asking a judge to set aside the 2011 judgment incorporating the settlement agreement. She alleged that Husband had concealed payments to a retirement account during the negotiations leading up to the agreement. The trial court found no evidence to support that claim. It also said Wife was too late. State law required her to seek the set aside within one year from the date on which she knew or should have known about Husband’s alleged fraud. In this case, Wife asked for the set aside nearly a year after the judgement was entered and more than a year after the couple reached the agreement.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Wedding RingsHusband 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.

Continue reading

Published on:

Divorce proceedings are much like other types of litigation. As in other cases, divorcing spouses are required to provide each other with certain information during the course of the proceedings in order to make sure that each side knows what they are getting into. State law allows a judge to go back and undo a ruling if he or she finds that a spouse has withheld information about their income and assets or otherwise committed fraud. California’s Second District Court of Appeals recently took on a case involving this type of fraud allegation.

wedding ringWife filed for divorce from Husband in 2012, following some 24 years of marriage. The spouses entered into a marital settlement agreement, resolving how their property would be divided and waiving their rights to spousal support. Husband later opposed Wife’s request that the divorce court enter a judgment adopting the terms of the agreement. He argued that his attorney didn’t let him read the agreement and that the lawyer incorrectly told him that he wasn’t entitled to spousal support. The court eventually sided with Wife, adopting the agreement. Wife was awarded one of the couple’s homes, and Husband was awarded the other. He was also ordered to pay Wife $12,000 to make up the difference in value of the two properties.

Husband later asked the same court to set aside the decision, claiming that Wife had secured the agreement by fraud. He said in particular that Wife had hidden two vehicles that should have been considered the couple’s community property, didn’t disclose that she had been renting one of the properties to a tenant, and misrepresented the couple’s community interest in Wife’s 401k retirement savings account. The court declined Husband’s request, finding that it wasn’t filed within the six-month deadline provided by California law.

Continue reading

Published on:

The unfortunate truth is that divorces can cause pain and stress for everyone involved. These include cases of alleged domestic violence. In a recent case, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals was called on to explain an important point in California divorce matters that some folks might assume goes without saying. If you try to cut off your estranged husband’s penis, you probably won’t be able to get a court to later order him to pay you spousal support.

knife-on-table-1549464Husband and Wife separated in August 2011, following nearly 32 years of marriage. Four months later, Wife was charged with assault with a deadly weapon for allegedly trying to use a knife to cut off Husband’s penis. A court issued a protective order forcing Wife to stay away from Husband, and she later pleaded guilty to the felony assault charge. Wife was convicted and sentenced to three years of probation.

Wife then asked a separate court hearing the divorce case to order Husband to pay her temporary spousal support. The court declined, finding that Wife wasn’t entitled to the support because she had committed an act of domestic violence. Section 4325 of the California Family Code establishes a rebuttable presumption that a spouse convicted of domestic violence within five years of filing for divorce – or at any time thereafter – isn’t entitled to spousal support. In this case, the trial court pointed to Wife’s conviction as disqualifying her from seeking support.

Continue reading

Published on:

If you want a court to change an existing child or spousal support award, you have to prove that there has been a change of circumstances to justify it. This means presenting real evidence to the court, as California’s Sixth District Court of Appeals recently explained.

gavelMother and Father separated in 2011, following more than 18 years of marriage. They had three minor children at the time. When the couple eventually divorced, they entered into a stipulated agreement providing that Father would pay Mother more than $4,000 per month in combined spousal and child support. The agreement stated that Father was making about $12,300 per month as a systems engineer, while Mother was earning about $600 a month as a part-time French instructor and tutor.

Father went back to court less than a year later, asking a judge to reduce his support obligation. He explained that he was losing his job, which had been a three-year assignment, and was looking for a new gig. Father also said he’d lost about $63,000 in stock market investments the previous year. The trial court responded by reducing his support obligations to zero, at least on a temporary basis, and said it would retain jurisdiction to reconsider if and when Husband found a job. The court ordered both parents to make good-faith efforts to find work and to notify each other within 48 hours of landing a job.

Continue reading

Published on:

One of the main purposes of alimony, or spousal support, is to help divorcing spouses continue to enjoy the standard of living that they had during the marriage. So it’s no surprise that courts try to gauge that standard of living when deciding whether and how much support to award. A recent case out of California’s Fourth District Court of Appeals is an example of how judges make that determination.

dollar billHusband and Wife separated in 2005, following more than 16 years of marriage. The trial judge handling the divorce proceedings concluded that Husband and Wife had a working-class lifestyle during the course of the marriage. The court noted in particular that the couple owned a modest home, cars, and a truck and that Husband and Wife didn’t seem to do any extensive traveling or extravagant entertaining. The court also observed that Wife was bringing in a little more than $1,000 a month in her job as a day care instructor. She had some limits on her ability to work, however, due to a plate in her neck. Husband, on the other hand, was earning about $5,700 a month as a mechanic and owned a brownstone in New York that he’d inherited.

The trial court ultimately ordered Husband to pay Wife $1,000 a month in spousal support. It based that decision on the length of the marriage, the couple’s working-class lifestyle, and Wife’s limited ability to work. Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District said the trial judge’s conclusions were supported by the evidence.

Continue reading

Published on:

Spousal support, or alimony, is a monthly payment made by one divorcing spouse to the other in order to help the person maintain a certain level of financial security following a split. A judge considering a request for such support looks at a number of factors, including one spouse’s need and the other’s ability to pay. Judges also consider the standard of living during the marriage, how long the couple was married, and whether the person seeking support has made reasonable efforts to become self-sufficient. It’s that last factor on which the Court of Appeals for the Fourth District recently focused in a case stemming from a long-term marriage during which one spouse did not work.

new-5-1474097Husband and Wife had eight children over the course of a 25-year marriage before Husband filed for divorce in 2010. He was working as a doctor at the time. Wife, who was a nurse before the couple married, stayed home to care for the kids during the marriage. The spouses agreed on how they would split their property, and a trial court ordered Husband to temporarily pay Wife $5,000 per month in spousal support. The trial court later reduced that amount to $4,100. It also awarded Husband custody over the couple’s four minor children and ordered Wife to pay Husband more than $1,300 in child support.

Wife argued on appeal that the trial court failed to account for the long-term nature of the marriage in setting the spousal support award. The Fourth District disagreed. It said the trial court “fully acknowledged and considered [Wife]’s contributions to the parties’ long-term marriage and her disadvantage in the job market based on her marital contributions.” The trial court specifically found that Wife’s decision to stay at home had a “big impact” on her ability to work following the divorce.

Continue reading

Published on:

California family law operates under a policy that’s meant to encourage divorcing spouses to become self-supporting after they split. That means each spouse should look for work, to the extent that he or she is able. It also means that a person who has been injured or suffers from a medical condition should take appropriate steps to treat the injury or condition so that he or she can eventually return to the job. As a recent case out of California’s Second District Court of Appeals shows, courts often treat spouses who don’t live up to their end of the bargain as if they are working. That means a court can impute income to the non-working spouse and lower the amount of alimony or support to which he or she would otherwise be entitled.

smurfy-workers-1183449Husband and Wife separated in June 2009, following 22 years of marriage. Husband was eventually ordered to pay Wife more than $5,300 in child and spousal support. The trial court found that Husband was making more than $17,000 per month as a FedEx commercial pilot. The judge also warned Wife that it was her responsibility to look for permanent, full-time work and said that should happen by the time the couple’s youngest child graduated from high school five years later.

Wife eventually found work as a substitute teacher in 2013, but she quit the job soon thereafter when she was injured in a car accident. She later told the trial court that she wasn’t able to work due to injuries from the crash, as well as other unrelated medical conditions. Wife asked the court to increase the amount of spousal support that Husband was required to pay, noting that his monthly income had since risen to more than $19,000. The trial judge agreed and ticked up the monthly child support to $3,000 from $2,250.

Continue reading