Steve Clark is a software engineer from Orange County, California and a divorced father who has to pay $1,000 a month in permanent alimony. He believes that it is unfair that someone should have to make monthly alimony payments to their former spouse for the rest of their life. As a result, he has been on a mission to change California law on alimony—also known as “spousal support.”
Clark’s Proposed Alimony Reforms
Clark’s quest to reform California law regarding alimony began back in 2015 when he introduced an initiative to limit a person’s ability to receive spousal support to one year in cases of extreme hardship. The initiative also sought to cease all alimony obligations currently in effect that were supposed to end within ten years. Although Clark’s proposed initiative successfully appeared on the ballot for consideration by California voters during the 2016 election—indicating that he collected at least 365,880 signatures from registered voters—his initiative ultimately did not pass.
However, Clark is back at it with big plans to introduce a similar initiative for the 2020 election ballot. He even retained a petition company to help him collect over 623,000 signatures needed to get his measure on the 2020 ballot. Clark’s latest proposal seeks to amend California Family Code § 4330 to limit spousal support obligations to five years.
Spousal Support in California
Upon divorce, courts have the discretion to order spousal support where a spouse has shown a need for support, and the other spouse has a demonstrable ability to pay. Whether one thinks the possibility of owing permanent spousal support is fair or not, courts are required to conduct a thorough analysis of the relevant facts when determining spousal support issues.
Under California Family Code § 4320, a court must consider the following factors when determining issues of spousal support:
- Each spouse’s ability to maintain the standard of living established during marriage, factoring their respective earning capacities and financial conditions
- The extent to which the spouse seeking support contributed to the education, training, and career of the other spouse
- The ability of the spouse from whom support is requested to pay support
- Each spouse’s needs, based on the marital standard of living
- The assets and property of each spouse
- How long the marriage lasted
- The ability of the spouse seeking support to find employment without interfering with their child’s interests
- The parties’ age and health
- Any history of domestic violence
- The tax consequences on each party
- The balance of hardships for the parties
- The goal for the party seeking support to becoming self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time
- The criminal history of an abusive spouse
- Any factors that are just and equitable to the court
Courts may also consider a spouse’s misconduct or “fault” when determining spousal support issues. The length of the parties’ marriage usually dictates the duration and extent of a spousal support award. For example, if the marriage lasted for five years, a court could limit a spousal support obligation to sixty months. Courts have held that half the length of a marriage qualifies as a “reasonable time” for a spouse to become financially self-supporting.
When a marriage lasted for more than ten years, the financially disadvantaged spouse may be entitled to permanent spousal support. The appropriateness of a permanent spousal support award depends on the specific circumstances of each case.
Generally, permanent spousal support is appropriate in marriages of long duration where one spouse was financially dependent on the other and has been unemployed too long to reasonably expect them to re-enter the workforce.
Contact Neshanian Law Firm for Sound Legal Counsel
If you are facing a potentially difficult and emotionally intense divorce and are concerned about spousal support issues, it is in your best interest to retain the services of an experienced attorney. At The Neshanian Law Firm, Inc., our legal team has the skill and legal proficiency to protect your legal interests.
Call us at (949) 577-7935 or visit us online to schedule an initial case evaluation with a dedicated member of our legal team today.