Court Examines the Duration of California Spousal Support Obligations

When people divorce, it is not uncommon for one party to lack the financial means to provide for their basic needs and wants. As such, the court may order the other party to pay spousal support. In many cases, the courts do not intend spousal support to be a permanent obligation; instead, they indicate that such support should only endure until the receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient. If the receiving spouse fails to comply with a court’s warning to become self-supporting, though, it does not necessarily mean that the paying spouse’s support obligations will cease, as shown in a recent ruling issued by a California court. If you need assistance with a spousal support issue, it is advisable to talk to a Bay Area spousal support attorney as soon as possible.

History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and the wife divorced in 2001 after 17 years of marriage. During the dissolution proceedings, the husband agreed to pay the wife $900 per month in spousal support for an indefinite term. The court issued a judgment of dissolution in which it warned the wife that she was expected to become self-supporting.

Allegedly, in 2020, the husband filed a petition to terminate his spousal support obligation, arguing that he should no longer have to pay because the wife had failed to become self-supporting as she was directed to by the courts and because his health had deteriorated and his business had become less profitable. The court held a hearing on the issue, after which it reduced the husband’s spousal support obligation to $600 but declined to terminate it. The husband appealed.

The Duration of California Spousal Support Obligations

On appeal, the husband argued that the court erred in denying his request because the wife did not do enough to become self-supporting in compliance with the court’s warning, and the court failed to consider the factors for granting support as set forth in the California Family Code.

The court disagreed, noting that while the trial court found that the wife failed to comply with the earlier warning to become self-sufficient, the husband had not pointed to any authority supporting the assertion that this meant his support obligation should cease. Further, the courts have broad discretion in determining whether to grant or modify support obligations and generally base their determinations on the parties’ needs and ability to pay. As the husband failed to demonstrate that the court abused its discretion in denying his request, his appeal was denied.

Talk to a Seasoned California Family Law Attorney

The California courts will often grant parties that are left financially disadvantaged due to divorce spousal support, but in many cases, such support only lasts until the party becomes self-supporting. If you or your spouse intend to end your marriage, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney about your rights and obligations with regard to spousal support. The seasoned family law attorneys of Bay Area Family Law Center take pride in helping people protect their interests in divorce actions, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can contact us through our online form or by calling us at 925-258-2020 to set up a meeting.

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