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A Woman\'s Fight For Spousal Support


In my twenty years of practicing law I don't know how many woman approached me about spousal support and their fear of being homeless if they would get divorced. The majority of course, are woman who gave up a career to stay home and raise their children.
Another theme, one keeps hearing from husband's attorney, is that the court should look at the wife's ability to immediately get a job and support herself.
 I recently took over a case where the husband, making well over a six figure a year income was fixated on not paying any spousal support from a 16 year marriage with 4 children. He argued for a  "Vocational Assessment", which ended up costing him and his soon to be ex-wife four thousand dollars.( A vocational assessment is where a trained vocational expert, interviews, usually the wife, about her education and work background. The expert then suggests to the court, interviewees present and future potential earnings.) The Husband, in this case, believed because his wife graduated college with honors 15 years ago, she should get out and work immediately. Of course he didn't take into consideration that she gave up pursuing a career to start raising their children. She also put him through a Masters program so he could advance in the company he worked for.
When I took over the case, I was surprise to see that the wife's attorney agreed to this assessment let alone having her client agree to paying half the cost.
                      Here is some facts that woman should know to alleviate the fear.

First, it is true, the court does look at your market ability (what kind of job you could get). However, that is just one element of many the court must look at and then have to weigh.
California Family Law Code Section 4320 states that "in ordering spousal support, the court shall consider all of the following circumstances":( abbreviated)
The marketable skills of the supported party.
The court must still consider the job market for those skills, plus the time and expenses needed to get the education or training to develop those skills or a more marketable skill.
The extent the supported party's present or future earning capacity is impaired by unemployment that incurred during the marriage to devote time to domestic duties.
The extent to which the supported party contributed to the education, training, a career position, or a license by the supporting party.
The ability of the supporting party to pay spousal support.
The needs of each party based on the standard of living established during the marriage.
The obligations and assets, including the separate property, of each party.
The duration of the marriage.
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.
The age and health of the parties.
Documented evidence of any history of domestic violence.
The tax consequences to each party.
The balance of the hardships to each party.
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.
This factor is the one that opposing counsel always tries to hang their hat on. But although it is a goal it is still one of many factors the court has to look at and then weigh.
The criminal conviction of an abusive spouse.
Any other factors the court determines are just and equitable.

As you can see there are many factors that the court shall take into consideration and that the odds that the court will order spousal support are extremely likely. In the above case, the court ordered spousal support but the husband continued to refused to pay. Several contempt of the court's order charges were filed. The Husband was found in contempt of court and custody time was held over his head, if he continued to not pay his support. Husband is now paying spousal support as well as arrears (support owed) with interest.
Under the Family Law Code section 3557 "Absent good cause to the contrary, the court shall award reasonable attorney's fees to a party who brings an action to enforce child and/or spousal support." Husband was also ordered to pay wife's attorney fees as a sanction required by law for being in contempt of court.


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  Published Date - April 5 2010
  Total Views - 569
  Total Votes - 2
  Average Rating - 1
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  Ms. Cherie Brenner
Cherie L. Brenner has been practicing criminal and family law for over twenty years. She has handled over a thousand cases . She has been certified through Harvard Law School's negotiation program and UC-Hastings Law School in trial advocacy. Ms. Brenner has a masters degree in psychology and teaches law at a local university. She is a published author and continues to inform and update the public on the law. Also view and
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