Modification of Spousal Support

Modification of Spousal Support

One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is spousal or domestic partner support. When matters of the heart are involved, financial matters because even more hotly contested. Modification of support orders is no exception, as they involve the ability of the payer to pay and the need of the payee for financial support. If you are unfamiliar with spousal support in California, please see my prior blog here.

The threshold issue is whether the parties have agreed or a judge has ordered that spousal support may not be modified. If the parties agreed that it could not be changed, they will be bound by that agreement. Likewise, if a judge’s support order does not allow for change, no request to modify it will be granted.

If neither an agreement nor an order bar modification, the parties may agree to change the amount of spousal support themselves. If they do, before it is legally enforceable, they must ask a judge to approve it and enter it as an order of the court.

If the parties cannot agree, one of them may file a request with the court to modify the amount. The party making the request will have to show that there has been a change in circumstances that warrants a change in the amount paid. Following are the reasons in California that might support a change:

  • Reduced ability of the paying party’s ability to pay;
  • Reduced need of the party receiving the support;
  • The failure of the party receiving support to attempt to become self-supporting;
  • The remarriage, cohabitation, or death of the party receiving support; and
  • The inability of your employer or the child support agency to deliver the spousal support for at least six months due to a change in the payee’s address.

As you might imagine, how the facts are presented in a spousal support modification request can make a substantial difference in the outcome. If you’re faced with requesting modification or defending against it, you should hire an aggressive attorney with substantial experience in support matters. Judy L. Burger and her team have considerable experience in contested family law matters. Submit our Contact form today or call (415) 259-6636 to arrange an appointment to begin discussing your case.
How Do California Courts Determine Spousal and Partner Support?

How Do California Courts Determine Spousal Support and Partner Support?

Under California law, when a couple divorces or legally separates, a court can order spousal or partner support. Spousal or partner support can be ordered on a temporary basis, while the court case is pending. It can also be ordered by the court on a permanent basis at the end of the case, such as when a final divorce order is entered. Either way, a case must be pending before a court can become involved.

A court may enter a temporary support order to provide for support of a spouse or partner while the court case is pending. The factors used by California courts in determining the amount of a temporary order are set locally by court rule. For example, in San Francisco County, the local court rules provide that the Santa Clara schedule will be used to calculate the default amount of spousal support. However, the judge may decide, for reasons that constitute “good cause”, that a different amount is appropriate.

A court may also enter a permanent or long-term support order at the end of a case. California law mandates that many factors be considered by the judge in setting this award, including but not limited to the following:

  • The length of the marriage or partnership;
  • Each party’s age and health;
  • The Marital Standard of Living;
  • Each party’s debts and assets;
  • Each party’s needs;
  • Each party’s earning capacity;
  • The ability of the paying party to pay support;
  • The ability of the receiving party to work without adversely affecting the parties’ minor children;
  • The tax consequences to each party;
  • Whether one party helped the other to receive an education, a license, or a similar achievement; and
  • The occurrence of domestic violence between the parties or against their children.
The court must also consider “the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time”, as well as hardships presented to each party. It may also consider other matters that it considers are just and equitable to make a proper order of support.

As you might imagine, how these matters are presented to a court can make a significant difference in the support order. You want an attorney with substantial experience in Northern California who will represent you aggressively. Please contact The Law Offices of Judy L. Burger at (415) 259-6636 to learn more.