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Am I going to have to pay or am I entitled to receive spousal support?

As a general rule, for so long as husband and wife or registered domestic partners are living together, they owe each other a mutual duty of support. [Family Code § 4300—“Subject to this division (Family Code § 3500 et seq.), a person shall support the person’s spouse” (parentheses added)]. The mutual spousal support duty during marriage operates independently of the parties’ marital estate or financial circumstances. The parties’ respective support obligations “are not conditioned on the existence of community property or income.” [Borelli v. Brusseau, supra, 12 CA4th at 652, 16 CR2d at 18]

In a judgment of dissolution or legal separation, the court “may order” a party to pay for the support of the other party “an amount, for a period of time, that the court determines is just and reasonable, based on the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into consideration the circumstances” provided in Family Code § 4320 et seq. In exercising their broad discretion on the question of spousal support, trial courts must consider and weigh several factors prescribed by Family Code § 4320.

In ordering spousal support under Family code § 4320, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances:

  1. (a) The extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account all of the following:
    1. (1) The marketable skills of the supported party; the job market for those skills; the time and expenses required for the supported party to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop those skills; and the possible need for retraining or education to acquire other, more marketable skills or employment.
    2. (2) The extent to which the supported party’s present or future earning capacity is impaired by periods of unemployment that were incurred during the marriage to permit the supported party to devote time to domestic duties.
  2. (b) The extent to which the supported party contributed to the attainment of an education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
  3. (c) The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support, taking into account the supporting party’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living.
  4. (d) The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
  5. (e) The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
  6. (f) The duration of the marriage.
  7. (g) The ability of the supported party to engage in gainful employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party.
  8. (h) The age and health of the parties.
  9. (i) Documented evidence, including a plea of nolo contendere, of any history of domestic violence, as defined in Section 6211, between the parties or perpetrated by either party against either party’s child, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported party by the supporting party, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting party by the supported party.
  10. (j) The immediate and specific tax consequences to each party.
  11. (k) The balance of the hardships to each party.
  12. (l)The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a “reasonable period of time” for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.
  13. (m) The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse shall be considered in making a reduction or elimination of a spousal support award in accordance with Section 4324.5 or 4325.
  14. (n) Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

If you are seeking spousal support from your ex, or if it is being sought from you, it is important to be informed so you may protect your rights. At the Law Office of Diane M. Itzenhauser, APC, we provide experienced representation in a broad range of family law matters, including those pertaining to spousal support. We are prepared to handle all legal matters relating to spousal support, including establishing, modifying and terminating support orders. Contact our law firm today at 805-544-2323 to discuss your case with an experienced San Luis Obispo family law lawyer.