Spousal Support: It can get nasty

In the past two blog entries we addressed custody and child support. In this post we will discuss the most incendiary of all topics for divorcing couples: spousal support. “Why should I pay her support so she can sit home on her butt. Let her get a job!” Or if the woman is already working, “I’d like more money too. If she wants more tell her to get a second job.” Conversely, “He’s the man! Why am I paying him support? What kind of a man asks for that?” Or “So I make more money than him. If he wasn’t so lazy, he’d have a better job and be making as much as me.”

It can get ugly very quickly. Here is what you need to know before the invectives begin flying:

Length of Marriage – In California if you are married for less than 10 years spousal support is NOT automatic. Even if you receive temporary support (while the case is being decided) the law expects every adult to be self-supporting. This is also true even if you are married for more than 10 years. Do not count on spousal support to last for more than half the length of the marriage unless there are special circumstances, such as you cannot work (for ex, for health reasons), your spouse is wealthy, etc. The important point is that the circumstances must be unusual. Otherwise, at some point you will be expected to solely support yourself.

What is Temporary Spousal Support? Temporary spousal support (granted while a case is pending) is determined by a computer program calculation. Hence, both spouses will argue about who is making what income and what expenses the paying spouse has. After those numbers have been decided by the court, the calculation determine the proper amount of temporary support that must be paid will be made. “Permanent” spousal support (which is rarely permanent and normally refers solely to financial support paid after the case is over) is NOT determined only by math or by a computer program. The Court examines many factors before determining support all based around trying to determine the marital standard of living. If the drop-off in a spouse’s standard of living after the divorce will be too steep, a judge will decide how much support must be given to a spouse and for how long. Each case is completely different. So do not believe that your best friend receiving $10,000 per month in spousal support has ANY relevance to your case. Your friend’s windfall reveals NO clue as to what you will get—or if you will even get anything.

Many spouses, if not most, believe they deserve support and are angry and disappointed when they don’t receive it. Save yourself a lot of heartache by remembering that spousal support is not guaranteed in California. Also, remember that even if you are granted spousal support, it is not a money tree in your backyard that will continue to give forever. Even those who do receive support more often than do not receive it for very long.