Spousal support, which people sometimes referred to as alimony, can be one of the most hotly disputed aspects of a modern California divorce. The lower-earning or stay-at-home spouse may desperately need support as they try to establish their independence, and the higher-earning spouse may feel that such payments might impose an unfair hardship on them.
Some spouses address the possibility of support in marital agreements. Anyone who doesn’t have a contract with their spouse may have to negotiate or litigate to establish spousal support responsibilities during a divorce. If you go to court, a judge will base the decision they make on state law. What factors must a California family law judge consider when responding to a request for spousal support?
Need and ability to pay are key
The need of one party to receive spousal support is one of the most important considerations for a judge making a decision about spousal support. The ability of the other spouse to pay is also critical to the decision-making process. A judge also has to factor in the standard of living during the marriage to reach a solution that is fair and appropriate.
Numerous other factors also play a role
You may have some separate property that you won’t have to share with your spouse when you divorce. Your separate assets and those of your spouse can influence what support obligations a judge sets in your divorce.
The length of your marriage is a consideration, as is the health and age of each spouse. Your income and ability to seek gainful employment are also considerations. Those over the age of retirement, severely ill or without job skills that would lead to competitive wages may have stronger claims to support, as with those leaving a long-term marriage.
Judges can also consider any documented history of domestic violence. Finally, they can give consideration to any marital factors that would influence what is fair. Much of the process is open to interpretation, which means that it can be very difficult to predict exactly how much support a judge will order or how long they will expect one spouse to make payments to the other.
You can take control of spousal support
Just as you can make your own decisions about dividing your property or parenting responsibilities, you can also settle outside of court regarding spousal support. You and your ex can negotiate terms that both of you find agreeable, which can be a better solution than leaving everything in the hands of a judge. Understanding what determines the outcome of major decisions in a California divorce can help you decide what steps to take next.