How Is Fresno Spousal Support Determined?

Fresno Spousal Support

This is one of the first questions asked by divorcing spouses.  If you are the supported spouse, you will want to know about your financial security and how long you will have to become reasonably self-supporting.  The supporting or obligor spouse will want to know how long they will be required to support their former spouse.  These are all good questions and this blog is intended to shed some light on those issues and give instruction as to how spousal support is determined.

California law requires that both parties become reasonably self-supporting within a reasonable period of time after the date of separation or divorce.  Spousal support is determined based on several factors set forth in Family Code Section 4320.  What is actually reasonable depends on the circumstances of your case.  These are the factors that a court will consider when assessing spousal support:

The age and health of the parties.  The parties’ ages and relative health does factor into spousal support.  If one spouse is nearing the age of retirement, for example, it is likely that they will not be forced to work after the age of retirement or to find a job unless that spouse chooses to work. Conversely, if a couple is relatively young and in good health when they divorce, it would be more realistic for both spouses to have time to further their careers or to become reasonably self-supporting.  A party’s health is always at issue.  An able bodied, healthy individual is far more likely to be able to work for a long period of time as opposed to an individual with health restrictions.

Each party’s marketable skills.  Whether each party has marketable job skills and whether those job skills can support one or both of the spouses at the marital standard of living is a prime consideration when determining spousal support.  For example, a well-trained surgeon will usually earn considerably more than the manager of a non-profit organization.  As another example, a stay at home parent who was trained as a nurse or a teacher may have the job skills to find work but would need time to be retrained to current professional standards or to obtain another certification or credential.

The marital standard of living.  The marital standard of living is usually the yardstick by which courts measure how the parties should live after the date of separation and divorce.  Adjustments are made depending on whether the parties can afford to support two households after separation.  For example, if a couple were living beyond their means during the marriage or barely making ends meet, it would be more realistic that both of the parties will have to make some concessions about their living arrangements upon separation and divorce.  Conversely, if one of the parties was an unusually high wage earner during the marriage and still is, it would be more realistic that the marital standard of living can be maintained.

Time out of the work force.  It is not unusual during a marriage that one spouse will take time off from work to raise children, for health reasons or simply because one spouse earns enough money where the other spouse does not have to work.  Upon the date of separation, it is incumbent upon the non-working spouse to obtain the job skills necessary to become reasonably self-supporting.  The court will take into consideration the length of time that a spouse was out of the work force when assessing spousal support including any time needed for additional training or education as appropriate.

The ability of one spouse to support the other.  The ability of one spouse to support the other is also considered when assessing support.  For example, a high earning spouse would have little difficulty supporting two households while the other spouse becomes reasonably self-supporting while a spouse who makes just enough to support one household will have little money left over to support two households.   Neither spouse is required to work excessive hours or overtime outside of their regular job description to make ends meet in two households after the date of separation.

The length of the marriage.  The length of the marriage also affects spousal support.  In a short term marriage of less than ten years, for example, the court is likely to limit support and expect both spouses to support themselves in a shorter period of time.  However, in a long term marriage, the yardstick for which is ten years, the court is more likely to make a longer term spousal support order as appropriate.

The parties’ needs and assets.  The parties’ separate property assets, assets awarded in the divorce, and financial needs are also a consideration. If one spouse has a significant amount of separate property assets through their earnings, gifts or inheritance, they are more likely to be considered reasonably able to support themselves.  Those assets also can be considered for the obligor spouse.

Whether domestic violence is involved.  A domestic violence conviction will affect the duration of spousal support.  A spouse convicted of domestic violence towards the other spouse is more likely to have a longer term spousal support obligation or to have their right to receive spousal support reduced.

The tax consequences to either party.  Each party’s tax situation is also a consideration when assessing spousal support.  For example, if one spouse is in a high tax bracket or has other tax obligations, the effect on that spouse’s bottom line income will affect the court’s assessment of the amount and duration of spousal support. This is also true for a spousal support recipient.

Other just and equitable factors.  The court has a great deal of discretion to affix spousal support, particularly in long tem marriages.  The Family Code allows a trier of fact to consider other facts and pertinent evidence when assessing spousal support that is just and reasonable under the circumstances.

If you want to learn more about how spousal support is determined in Fresno, please contact us.