In California, state law mandates that spousal support (commonly known as alimony) be determined by the court, dependent upon the court’s review of a variety of factors.
These spousal support determination factors include, but are not limited to:
- the local area’s job market for the requesting spouse’s skills;
- assessment of viable employment skills of the spouse requesting support;
- the length of time or expenses required by the requesting spouse to obtain education or training for employment transitions or entry into new fields; and
- the extent to which extended unemployment caused by the requesting spouse’s fulfillment of domestic duties during the marriage may have impaired the requesting spouse’s present or future earning capacity..
Other factors the court may consider include:
- the requesting spouse’s contributions to the other spouse’s education (including vocational training and professional licensing) and career advancement;
- the earning ability of the supporting spouse assessed using earned and unearned income, assets, and standard of living;
- the length of the marriage;
- each spouse’s age and health;
- immediate tax consequences;
- any documented history of domestic violence by either spouse; and
- the ultimate goal that the requesting spouse will become self-supporting within a reasonable time period. Typically, the time frame for support is viewed by the court as being half the length of the total time of the marriage, excluding marriages lasting longer than 10 years.
Modifying and Termination of Spousal Support Orders
Either spouse may request that the court modify or terminate the spousal support order if a material change in circumstances had occurred.Without a written agreement to the contrary, spousal support will typically be terminated on the death of either spouse, or on the remarriage of the supported spouse.
There is also a rebuttable presumption that a party who is cohabiting with a new partner has a reduced need for support. Recent California Appellate Court rulings have been willing to modify spousal support while recognizing a commitment ceremony or co-habitation as sufficient reason to reduce but not terminate spousal support.
Commitment Ceremonies Vs. Weddings
California appellate court rulings have recently shown the court to be unwilling to recognize commitment ceremonies as equal to a marriage and thus as an act that qualifies for termination of spousal support.
The critical document in these cases is the marriage license. Without a marriage certificate and regardless of any elaborate or well-attended wedding events, California courts have been unwilling to terminate spousal support orders.
What Supporting Spouses Should Keep In Mind
If your ex-partner who is receiving support has begun living with a new partner or has announced a pending marriage ceremony it’s important to remember the following:
- Never terminate spousal support without a court order.
- Don’t assume that a destination wedding will be a legal marriage. Especially if it takes place out of the state or out of the country. Marriage licenses can be complicated to obtain in jurisdictions where the participants do not maintain a residence.
- Consult with your attorney about your former spouse’s plans or new living situation. It can be helpful to review your divorce settlement to assess what terms may apply to ending support payments.
- Keep your cool and keep your cards close to your chest. When you find out that your ex-spouse is moving in with a new partner or planning a marriage or commitment ceremony, resist the temptation to express joy over the presumptive end to support payments.
Our office is experienced with spousal support modification requests, as well as other areas of family law. Please contact the Law Offices of Renkin & Associates today for assistance with your family law matter.