California Family Code, Section 4320, sets forth the circumstances necessary to determine if and for how long a spouse may receive spousal support. To determine if you are entitled to support, you should review several of the factors the Court considers by asking yourself the questions below:
Is the earning capacity of each party sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage? If each party is capable of maintaining the lifestyle they had during marriage on their own, they are expected to do so. Within this first factor, the Court also considers two main sub-factors:
1. The marketable skills of the supported party: When looking at this, the Court determines what job skills the supported party has and if there is a job market for these skills. If the supported party has no marketable skills, the court will usually grant spousal support for a reasonable amount of time so the party seeking support can be supported while he/she acquires the appropriate education or training to develop those skills into something more marketable.
2. Periods of unemployment: The court also looks to see if the party seeking support has not worked for any substantial amount of time. If the party seeking support has not worked and instead has devoted time to domestic duties, spousal support will likely be granted for a longer period of time giving the supported spouse a better chance of re-entering the job market.
Additionally, did the supported party contribute to the attainment of an education, training, carrier, or license by the supporting party? For instance, working a job and putting your spouse through medical school in hopes of one day being able to stay home or live a more comfortable lifestyle can work in your benefit when seeking support.
What is the ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support? The higher the income of the supporting party, the better their ability to pay support.
What are the needs of each party based on the standard of living established during marriage? The goal of spousal support is to mimic the lifestyle of the parties during marriage. The Court does not like to see one party suffering financially because the other was the breadwinner of the family. Thus, the Court tries to make the living situation after marriage equitable until the supported party can become self sufficient.
What are the obligations, assets and separate property of each party? If the party seeking to be supported can be self sufficient because of assets or separate property, it will be harder for the party seeking support to show a need for the support.
How long were parties married? If the marriage was for 10 years or less, spousal support is usually awarded for half the length of the marriage. If the marriage was for longer than 10 years, the Court has the authority to potentially order support for an unlimited amount of time.
Is the party seeking support responsible for the care of the children? If seeking employment will have a negative impact on the dependent children, the Court can be hesitant to make that party seek employment at the detriment of the children.
Are the parties healthy? The Court takes into consideration the age and health of the parties. If someone is over the retirement age, the Court is not likely to order them to find employment and become self sufficient. Support will likely be granted to a party seeking support who cannot work.
Are there hardships to either party? If there are any hardships, financially or otherwise, that you feel would benefit you, be sure to bring them up. This could be a number of things, including spousal support paid to a previous spouse.
If, after reviewing and answering the questions above, you believe you are entitled to spousal support you should consult with a family law attorney. An experienced attorney can help you review your options and guide you through the process of seeking spousal support.