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San Diego Spousal Support Attorneys

Spousal Support in California

In many marriages, one spouse will bring a higher income to the marriage. Even in situations where two people with similar incomes marry, one may decide to put a career on hold for the benefit of the family as a whole, especially as children come along. In some marriages, one spouse will support the couple or family while the other advances his or her education and ability to provide for the family.  Contact an experienced San Diego spousal support attorney for a free legal consultation.

Equal Contribution, Unequal Pay

Although both spouses may be making equal contributions to the family’s total well-being and quality of life, one will be providing most of the money, while the other will be performing the equally important task of child-rearing, home management, creating a positive home environment and, in some cases, working behind the scenes to advance the other’s career and reputation by creating or reinforcing important social relationships and being involved in the community. This typically involves sacrificing other opportunities for career and income advancement.

In a San Diego divorce where a couple have unequal incomes, the law deems it appropriate, in many cases, for the spouse that has been supported during the marriage to continue to receive spousal support payments, commonly called alimony but referred to in California law as “spousal support.” Where the supported spouse has less earning potential than the supporting spouse, and especially when the supported spouse will continue to be the primary caretaker of the children, it is reasonable for the spousal support payments to continue either permanently or temporarily, depending on the circumstances.

Spousal Support orders can vary between temporary and permanent. Dependent on the unique circumstances of a case, the courts may rule that spousal support be deemed for interim periods or for a permanent period of time. Generally a temporary support is ordered during the divorce case, and a permanent plan is implemented by the courts at the terminus of the case.

Considerations for Determining Spousal Support in California Law

California law gives courts a significant amount of discretion to determine whether spousal support is appropriate, and if it is, the amount and duration of the support. Ideally, the couple will agree between them on an appropriate support plan. Your lawyer will assist you in evaluating the factors that typically affect the determination of an award:

  • The ability of each to earn enough to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • The skills and work experience of the supported spouse and the demand in the workplace for those skills
  •  The amount of time and the cost of education or job training required to develop marketable employment skills, where they are lacking
  • What the supported spouse sacrificed in earning capacity by quitting work to stay home to raise children, create a pleasant home environment for the family, and perform other domestic, social, and community functions
  •  Whether the supported spouse with custody of the children can work outside the home without a negative effect on the children
  • How much the supported spouse contributed to the supporting spouse’s career and earning ability, for example by providing for the family while the other was obtaining higher education in to obtain a university degree or professional status
  • The financial capability of the supporting party to pay spousal support
  • The, age, health, and specific needs of each party
  • The total assets and obligations of each party
  • The duration of the marriage
  • Any history of documented domestic violence
  • Tax considerations for each party

Is California a No-Fault Divorce State?

States in the US use fault, no-fault or a hybrid of both types of divorce laws. California is a no-fault divorce state. In California, the person seeking the divorce does not need a specific reason or to prove the fault of the other spouse to proceed with the process. It does not matter whether one spouse is to blame for causing the dissolution. A spouse or domestic partner can file for divorce without proving the other person’s fault. The filing party must only cite irreconcilable differences to file.

Irreconcilable differences mean you and your spouse no longer see eye to eye. You may have a specific issue in mind, such as failure to communicate or lack of sexual intimacy, but it is generally not necessary to go into detail. As the filing party, you will enter ‘irreconcilable differences’ as your reason for divorce on the petition. The courts will then proceed with a no-fault divorce case. California is a true no-fault divorce state, meaning you cannot file a fault-based divorce even if you want to. Fault will not matter during divorce-related decisions in California, such as spousal support or property division.

In states that allow fault-based divorces, one party’s fault for causing the split could impact a judge’s decisions. If one spouse committed adultery, for example, a judge in a fault-based state could use this information to rule in the other spouse’s favor during property division, such as by giving that spouse the family home. In California, however, the courts will divide property down the middle, 50/50, regardless of fault for the divorce. A judge will decide matters, such as spousal support, based on what is fair for the couple and the situation.

spousal support attorney writing in notebook

What Is Temporary Spousal Support?

Some individuals need immediate spousal support. They cannot wait until they receive orders from a judge. These situations are most common when one spouse does not have a job or income and the other spouse cuts him or her off financially during a dispute or separation. If your spouse denies you access to money in the early stages of a divorce, contact a San Diego spousal support attorney to ask about a temporary order. Temporary spousal support orders can provide the money you need from your spouse faster than permanent alimony. You and your lawyer can request temporary orders while you are still waiting for a final divorce judgment.

Temporary spousal support can help you pay for your home, bills, food and other necessities while you wait for a resolution to your divorce case. You or your lawyer must request this type of order when you file for divorce. You can do so when you have a new case you are just starting or if you already have an open family court case in San Diego. If you are first filing for divorce, you or your lawyer can request temporary spousal or partner support with your initial paperwork.

With an already-open divorce case, you can submit court forms such as the Request for Order. This will set up a hearing with you, your ex-spouse and a judge. You may also be able to avoid going to court if you and your partner can write up a spousal support agreement plan and submit it to a judge. If a judge grants a temporary spousal support order during your divorce case, your spouse may have to pay you a certain sum – either lump or in installments – while your case is pending.

The temporary support order may or may not change when a judge finalizes your divorce. Divorce finalization could take away your temporary spousal support if the judge does not believe you qualify. Otherwise, the judge will grant a request to make a temporary spousal support order long-term or permanent. The judge will then use a special formula to determine how much and for how long you should receive spousal support.

Can You Modify Spousal Support?

In California, every spouse has the right to request a spousal support order modification. Although there is no guarantee a judge will sign off on the modification request, a spouse can submit one any time someone’s income significantly changes. The paying party must continue paying according to the judge’s initial order, however, unless the judge signs off on a modification request. Never agree to a private change in spousal maintenance with your spouse. You will still have a legal obligation to fulfill your end of the deal until a judge says otherwise. A private agreement could put you at risk of serious legal and financial consequences.

If your financial situation changes, submit a spousal support modification request to the courts in San Diego County. You must demonstrate a change in circumstances since the judge last issued the spousal support order for the courts to sign off on your request. A change in circumstances could refer to the recipient no longer needing support or acquiring a job, the recipient getting married or moving in with someone, the recipient not making a good-faith effort to find a job, or the person paying support experiencing a significant decrease in income. In general, the change must be significant for a judge to agree to a modification request.

To submit a request for spousal support modification, first try to create a new satisfactory plan with your ex-spouse. If you reach an agreement, write it up and submit it to the judge for approval. If you cannot agree with your spouse, submit your request directly to the courts. You or your family law attorney can file a motion requesting a modification, along with your reason and supporting documents. It is important to act right away if you need a modification of your support order. Allowing your support obligation to go into arrears could lead to significant penalties, including being held in contempt of court.

Work with a lawyer from Boyd Law in San Diego for assistance with your spousal support modification request. We can take care of the necessary steps and paperwork on your behalf, including a request for support modification. We can also review paperwork you have filled out yourself to check for mistakes or inconsistencies that could delay your case or reduce your chances of a judge agreeing to the change. Our San Diego family attorneys can guide you through the spousal support modification process from the beginning.

Contact a San Diego Spousal Support Attorney

It will be in your best interest to engage the services of an experienced and knowledgeable San Diego, CA family law attorney to represent your interests in spousal support and temporary spousal support negotiations with your spouse or before the court. At Boyd Law in San Diego, our skilled spousal support attorneys understand the legal and personal issues involved in the determination of spousal support in California and have a superior record of success in obtaining excellent results for our clients. Contact us today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.