Whether to pay spousal support is one of the most contentious issues in a divorce situation. For the first time, both spouses face having to live alone and support themselves, as well as children. After arguments over bank accounts and child custody, often the last thing a spouse wants is to worry about supporting the other spouse for years, if not a lifetime. Yet the spousal support issue is shrouded in a lot of myths that make it seem more frightening than it really is. A California family law attorney can help you learn the facts and maintain a good relationship with your ex-spouse. Spousal Support is Not a Factor in Every Divorce Just because you are divorcing does not mean you or your spouse will have to pay spousal support. In fact, in all but a tiny fraction of cases (10 to 15%), spousal support is not even awarded. And when it is awarded, the divorcing spouses had to first meet several conditions. The key is whether both spouses earn enough to maintain the standard of living they grew accustomed to during marriage. A family court judge considers whether the "supported" party has marketable skills, whether the supported party was unemployed for long periods of time to be a stay-at-home parent, the length of the marriage, the extent to which the supported party helped the "supporting" party obtain an education, and other factors. The list of factors is long, and as you can see, most divorcing couples do not meet the standards requiring spousal support. So don't feel that you can't get a divorce because you aren't able to make expensive support payments. The chances are high that you will not need to make any at all. If you do, they do not need to be a burden. You Would Not be Required to Support Your Ex-Spouse Forever There are cases of permanent spousal support, but in California, spousal support is generally meant to be "rehabilitative," until the other spouse becomes self-supporting. The law claims that it must be within a "reasonable period of time": usually half the length of the marriage, unless the marriage has lasted 10 years or longer. You can also stop paying support when your ex-spouse remarries, or, inevitably, if your ex-spouse predeceases you. If Your Financial Situation Changes, You Will Not Need to Keep Paying the Same Amount If you suddenly lose your job, or find a lower paying job, you do not need to keep making the same fixed payments to your ex-spouse. Instead, you could petition the family court for a temporary abatement, or for permanently reduced support payments. Similarly, if your ex-spouse starts to earn more money, you can seek to have your support payments reduced or stopped altogether. Your Ex-Spouse Must Try to Find Employment If your ex-spouse does not try to find employment, you can seek a vocational evaluator to examine his or her skills. The court might then decide to terminate your spousal support payments if you can show that your ex-spouse is purposely not looking for work. In some cases, an ex-spouse might truly be disabled. Then it would be best to have a medical evaluation done to determine whether your ex-spouse can do employment that meets his or her limitations.
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