What Is Considered Fair And Equitable When It Comes To Spousal Support?
At Christy, Keith & Donnell Family Law Group, P.C., we hear it from our clients or opposing attorneys everyday. Perhaps nothing becomes more contentious in a divorce than spousal support, generally referred to as alimony. Some spouses will forego custody and equitable visitation, even pay additional voluntary child support, as long as the other spouse gets no spousal support.
How Do The Courts Decide?
We’ve all seen too many old movies and TV shows that portray alimony as something the wife automatically gets when the husband files for divorce. In truth, spousal support is complicated and under the California Family Law Code, section 4320, judges are under tight constraints regarding if, when and how much alimony to award.
The Goals Of Code 4320
According to the wording of Code 4320: The goal is that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration, as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section.
Here are some of the factors that are required to go into the court decision, but not necessarily in the order listed in the Code:
- The earning capacity of each party relative to maintaining an established standard of living
- Whether the party seeking support (obligee) has retained marketable skills for the local job market
- The time and cost required for education or training to obtain marketable skills
- Whether periods of unemployment during the marriage may negatively impact earning capacity upon returning to the workforce
- The extent to the workforce will interfere with the raising of custodial children
- Whether and how much the obligee may have contributed to the education, professional license or job training for the obligor
- The ability for the obligor to pay, based on earning capacity, available assets and standard of living
- Debt obligations of each party following the property settlement
- Number of years the marriage lasted and the age and health of both parties
- Tax consequences a support award will have on each party
- Hardships balanced against each party
- A criminal conviction of either party
- Documented evidence of domestic violence by one party, perpetrated on the other party or children
What Counts As Documented Domestic Violence?
The following factors are taken as evidence of domestic violence when determining whether domestic violence is a valid factor for awarding support under Code 4320:
- A plea of no contest by the perpetrator
- The amount and type of emotional distress to the spouse or children caused by the act of domestic violence
- History of violence on record between the perpetrator and the party seeking support
- Court-ordered protective order against the perpetrator
- Any further acts of domestic violence occurring during the legal separation or divorce proceedings