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California Guidelines for Spousal Support

The court has a broad discretion in ascertaining the amount of spousal support as well as its duration. Some California counties have adopted a guideline, which suggests the appropriate range of spousal support on a temporary basis. Many counties do not allow the guideline to be the sole indicator of the amount of permanent spousal support. California State law provides that spousal support is determined by a careful review of a number of factors.

Most people are often eager to resolve their divorce cases at all costs and, in their rush to resolve spousal support issues, they agree to unfavorable terms that will have a HUGE financial impact on them for years to come.

In many cases, spousal support is the largest asset that is being awarded. Yet, while divorcing spouses may fight bitterly over home equity and the equity in businesses, they do not realize how large an asset — or obligation — a spousal support award can be.

For example, if a supporting spouse is ordered to pay $4,000 a month for a ten-year period that amounts to a $400,000 award. Of course, there are tax ramifications to spousal support, but the bottom line is: It pays to be VERY careful when negotiating or litigating your spousal support order.

To further complicate matters, if you do not negotiate or litigate the best possible terms in your initial spousal support, it will most likely be very difficult to come back to court at a later date to obtain better terms.

It is therefore very important that you not only obtain the best possible terms in your initial order, but also create an “exit strategy” so that you can come back to court at a later date and request a modification.

Since spousal support orders can have such a long term impact on your finances, it is crucial that you find an experienced San Diego Family Law Attorney who can help you obtain the best possible terms when establishing the initial support order.

Establishing Spousal Support in California

Under California spousal support law, spousal support may be “permanent” or temporary. Permanent spousal support may be ordered in marriages of long duration (generally ten years or more). In short term marriages (less than ten years); support is generally payable for one half the duration of the marriage.

In making an initial order, the court must consider the following factors: The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage; the marketable skills of the supported party; the extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties; and the extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, career position or a license by the supporting party.

In addition, the court must also consider: the obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party; the duration of the marriage; the ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party; the age and health of the parties; the degree to which the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time; and other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

Considerations on Determining Spousal Support

When you initially negotiate or litigate a spousal support order, it is important to ask the court to make specific findings regarding each of these factors.

Standard of Living

For example, it is very important that the court makes finding as to what the exact standard of living is and to make a specific itemized description of the party’s standard of living. Also be sure to ask the court to make specific findings regarding the SPECIFIC DOLLAR amount that is required to meet your and your spouse’s needs.

Earning Capacity and Vocational Exam

We would ask the Court to make very specific findingd regarding your soon to be Ex’s income or their ability to have an income.  In addition, it is  to ask the court to make specific findings regarding the earning capacity of your spouse. Toward that end, you should request that your spouse undergo a vocational examination in order to determine his/her earning capacity.

Imputation of Income (pretend the other party makes some money)

Even if your soon to be EX chooses not to work, you should ask the court attrobute some sort of income in the judgment.  Additionally, we would stress to the Court they should issue what is called a “Gavron warning” , which is basically an warning to the supported person they should become self-supporting within a certain time period and that failure to do so may be grounds for reducing or terminating the amount they are recieving in support.

Income and Expense Declaration

It is also important to give a lot of thought to how you fill out your Income and Expense declaration in order to get an accurate estimate of what your monthly budget is. A good attorney will give you a checklist and tips about how to fill out this important document.

California spousal support awards can have a significant financial impact on you for many years, therefore it is important to contact an experienced San Diego Family Law Attorney who can review the unique facts of your case and create strategies to help you obtain the BEST possible terms in your spousal support order.


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