In the case, Khera and Sameer, (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 1464, we learn what evidence does not amount to a showing of good cause as to why spousal support should continue beyond a certain date which was contemplated by the parties in their marital Judgment of Dissolution.
Under Khera and Sameer, the parties agreed in the Judgment of Dissolution that Wife would receive $2,650 per month in spousal support commencing June 2007 and stepped down each year through June 2010 when support would be reduced to zero unless Wife made an application to modify her support and could show good cause for doing so.
The Judgment provided that on June 1, 2010, Spousal support will be reduced to zero, unless, before that date, Wife files a motion to have spousal support continued and shows good cause as to why the Court should order spousal support to be continued. With regard to child care expenses, the Judgment provided that commencing June 1, 2007, The parties shall each pay one-half of all: (a) Reasonable child care expenses incurred to permit a Party to work; (b) Only through October 30, 2007, reasonable child care expenses incurred to permit Wife to obtain her MSW degree…
In 2010, Wife filed an Order to Show Cause seeking a modification of the Judgment’s spousal support provisions. She requested that the court determine the marital standard of living and order an upward modification of support. She indicated in her application that she was earning $9 per hour as an associate social worker. She was in a clinical psychology doctoral program and only able to work 24 hours per week. She argued that even if a change of circumstances is required (which she first contended was not required), a modification may be grounded on a showing of unrealized expectations. These unrealized expectations were that Wife was not self-supporting by the termination date of the support. The trial court denied Wife’s request finding there was insufficient evidence to modify the spousal support prospectively.
The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court reasoned that a modification of spousal support requires a showing of a material change of circumstances since the last order. Wife’s unrealized expectations may be appropriate but a family court cannot find a material change of circumstances in simply reconsidering something which has not changed since the order was made. Furthermore, the parties’ Judgment contained a Richmond order. These orders provide for termination of spousal support on a specified date unless, prior to that date, the supported spouse moves to modify showing good cause. A Richmond order helps prepare the recipient of support for the time when he or she must be able to be self-sufficient as it defines the expectations of the Court and of the supported spouse as reflected in the Judgment.
What is good cause for showing unrealized expectations? Absent unforeseen circumstances, Wife was expected to complete her MSW degree and be able to be fully self-supporting by June 2010. The Court stated that Wife did not show that she made efforts to achieve her goal of becoming self-supporting. An unrealized expectation of self-support requires a showing that, despite the supported spouse’s reasonable efforts, he or she was unable to support himself or herself. The burden was on Wife to show reasonable efforts to achieve this objective. A showing of good cause would have been evidence that despite her reasonable efforts, she was not able to complete her MSW degree, and had been unable to obtain employment as a social worker, or could not find full-time employment with her MSW degree which provided a wage which allowed her to be self-supporting.