LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Edgar Beltran Diaz | Oct 3, 2011

California Spousal Support: How Much Is She Getting?

One of the biggest concerns for an individual contemplating divorce in California is the issue of Spousal Support. Most cases involve the husband paying the ex-wife a monthly spousal support payment pursuant to a judges order. The amount of this payment is determined by the court using a number of factors. The initial spousal support ordered by the court is called "temporary spousal support". At the end of the divorce the judge will make a different "permanent spousal support" order. Temporary spousal support may be determined by a computer program called Xspouse. One simply plugs in the parties' respective monthly income and other figures and the program will calculate an amount to be paid by the higher earner to the lower earner. This program may only be used for temporary spousal support calculations. The Court will not use the program for a "permanent spousal support" order. The Court will use factors listed in Family Code Section 4320 to determine permanent spousal support. These factors are used in conjuction with any other relevant factor that your attorney can argue in order to calculate a permanent spousal support order. One of the main factors is the standard of living that was the norm during the marriage. Most men think this to be unfair since a divorce will cause one household to be broken into two households, thereby necessitating more costs.

There are two ways to determine spousal support: by a judges order or by agreement between the spouses. Either way, the higher earner will pay the lower earner. If a marriage lasted more than 10 years the judge may order spousal support to be paid until the wife remarries or dies. If the marriage lasted less than 10 years the court may order spousal support to be paid until the wife becomes self supporting. The judge may order a wife to become self supporting if the marriage lasted less than 10 years and in most cases she must be self supporting by half the time of the marriage. Meaning that if a marriage lasted 4 years, the wife may only have 2 years of spousal support. The judge will issue a "Gavron Warning" which is essentially a statement telling the wife to find some sort of income producing venture (job) that will allow her to be self supporting. Many other factors come into play not just the 10 year rule. Factors include the wifes education and/or ability to get a job. Also, some cases involve a wife who earns more than the husband, in those cases the wife will pay the husband spousal support, especially if the husband was a stay at home dad.

The larger the income gap between the parties, the higher the spousal support payment will be. And the longer the marriage, the longer the spousal support payments are going to last. Some husbands are tempted to quit there job thinking that if they don't earn anything the court cannot award any spousal support to their ex-spouse. DO NOT DO THIS. Apart from being against public policy, if the judge learns that one spouse intentionally quit or "eased" up on his working hours, the judge will "impute income" to that husband. Meaning that the judge will essentially rule that the husband is earning income even though he may not be working or earning anything and therefore be liable for spousal support!! There is a whole section of law devoted to this situation. Consult your attorney for further information, but quitting work because you do not want to pay spousal support is not a good idea and will probably get you in trouble with the judge. Also, abandoning your spouse and leaving her without a dime MAY expose you to criminal liability! Meaning that they can charge you with a crime. Although I've never came upon a case, Penal Code Section 270a makes it misdemeanor to leave your wife in a destitute condition.

A judge cannot make a spousal support order for an individual in a nonmarital relationship. Meaning that you have to be married (licensed, ceremony, agreement) before she would be entitled to spousal support.

Once the court makes the final spousal support order either party must prove a "change in circumstance" in order to change this order. For instance a change in cirmcumstance might include retirement at age 65 or if the wife remarries. For example if the judge orders husband to pay wife $1000/month based on husbands income of $5000/month and after 5 years wife remarries OR cohabitates with a person of the opposite sex (lives with another man) then the ex-husband may file paperwork with the court asking the judge to examine whether ex-wife still needs the $1000/month. The court will then decide based on the evidence if wife still requires spousal support.

Therefore, spousal support is when a judge orders a spouse in a divorce to make a payment to the othe spouse. Many factors go into calculating this amount and choosing the best attorney will help any spouse get the best possible outcome.

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