The issue of spousal support can be a delicate issue and is probably the source of the most confusion and fear in a divorce where spousal support is a consideration between the parties. Many clients come to our office with distorted, and highly polarized ideas about spousal support planted there by “friends” and family members who are well meaning but typically poorly informed.
Elements of Spousal Support
California Family Code §4320 presents eleven elements that provide the basis for spousal support considerations interpreted and paraphrased here:
Earnings Capacity Of Each Party Based On:
c) supporting spouses capacity to pay support
d) needs of each party to maintain a standard of living
e) obligations and assets of each party
f) length of marriage
g) supported parties availability for employment with dependent children
h) age and health of parties
i) tax consequences to each party
k) goal of self-supporting status within a reasonable time frame
Awarding Spousal Support
Family Court judges may exercise a wide discretion when determining whether or not to award spousal support and if so, how much and how long the term of the award will run, and the parameters through which it can be terminated before the award term matures. Some very important features are the age of the parties, the length of their marriage, and the role that each spouse played during the course of the marriage.
Previous generations had traditional roles that often had the wife assigned domestic labor and performing the duties of a primary nurturing parent. This role assignment, as critical as it is to a marriage partnership, is commonly recognized as "invisible" labor because it offers no career advancement, retirement, salary, or social security benefits. Dissolving a marriage where a wife (or a husband) has invested the bulk of his/her life contributing to the marriage with the assignment of invisible domestic labor, will find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the workforce if a divorce occurs, and inequities of this kind are what spousal support appears to be designed to address.
Today things have changed in many ways, but there are still varying versions of earnings capacity inequity at the end of most marriages – some of which do not amount to enough to be of any relative concern to either party. While the subject of spousal support at Go Divorce Clinic is rarely ever a point of much contention, with lawyers involved it can become an intractable issue holding up a settlement and creating bitter resentment for years. If the issue goes to hearing, predicting spousal support rulings are impossible. The issue is no doubt a delicate one, and something that must be approached carefully with both parties and a skilled facilitator that knows how to manage conversations well. At Go Divorce Clinic, our track record of cooperation around this issue is a testament to our level of expertise in mediation and conflict resolution, as well as our ability to provide direct, clear and non-provocative communication between our clients around critically delicate matters.
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