Carlsbad Family Law Attorneys
Couple fighting over money

Spousal Support 101

A major concern throughout divorce proceedings are finances. When a couple goes their separate ways and is moving towards living separate lives, finances are a large concern. This is where spousal support comes in to play. Spousal support is financial assistance that recognizes a partner’s contribution to the marriage and helps the recipient achieve financial independence.

In almost every household one spouse will make more money than the other. When a couple is faced with a divorce, it is reasonable for the spouse who makes a lesser or no income to be concerned about their financial future. The spouse with the lesser income usually finds themselves in a place where they supported the household and their partner in other ways that contributed to the overall financial success in the marriage.

As the divorce proceedings occur, the partner who will be the recipient of spousal support needs to keep in mind that the support is not forever. A judge will consider the marketable skills the recipient possesses to come to reach a place with higher earning potential.

John Griffith, a San Diego family law attorney, advises his clients who are receiving spousal support to develop a plan, set goals, and work diligently toward achieving those goals.
“This will show the court that you take your obligation to work toward becoming self-supporting seriously,” Griffith said. “It will also give you a sense of fulfillment and purpose.”

Spousal support applies to both short-term and long-term marriage. This means that if the marriage was legal and binding, there will be spousal support. Of course, a short-term marriage will result in a lesser payment in comparison to a marriage that would fall under the “Ten Year Rule”, meaning the marriage lasted 10 years or longer.

In California, a marriage of 10 years or more is a “marriage of long duration,” said Griffith. “In a marriage of long duration, the court cannot set a termination date on spousal support payments in the initial divorce trial.”

The duration is essentially indefinite subject to future circumstances. For marriages less than 10 years, the standard length of spousal support is half the length of the marriage but can be extended in special circumstances.

The spousal support payments will provide the recipient with financial security; however, they must remember there is a responsibility to become self-sufficient. A supported spouse in a long-term marriage should understand the court does not expect that they will become completely self-sufficient right away. Although, it is crucial for a supported spouse to show there is progress being made.

The two things that absolutely end a spousal support obligation are death and remarriage. It is often questioned if the payments will be terminated if the recipient co-habitats with a significant other and Griffith said cohabitating creates a rebuttable presumption of the lesser need for spousal support, nevertheless, will not make the payments go away.

“Ultimately, the purpose of spousal support is to bring the supported spouse up to the marital standard of living for a reasonable time,” Griffith said.