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What Factors Will Courts Consider When Ordering Spousal Support?

Sometimes when a couple in California divorces, one party may be at a financial disadvantage compared to the other party. For example, one party may earn significantly less than the other, or one party may have stopped working while married to take care of the home while the other party worked. Because the state has an interest in seeing that both spouses are able to live comfortably after a divorce, sometimes the court will order the higher-earning party to pay spousal support to the lesser-earning party.

The court will consider a number of factors when making spousal support decisions. For example, the court will consider the marketable skills of the receiving spouse, as well as what the job market looks like for those skills. The court will consider the time and expense it will take for the receiving spouse to obtain the education needed to develop more marketable skills or find employment. Finally, the earning capacity of the receiving spouse will be considered, especially in light of the amount of time that spouse stayed out of the workforce while married to care for the family.

The duration of time that spousal support will last in California is tied to how long the couple was married. This is due, in part, to the fact that the law aims to have the receiving spouse obtain the ability to become self-supporting within a "reasonable period of time." In general, the law determines that a "reasonable period of time" will be 50 percent of the length of time the couple was married. However, the judge has the power to decide differently based on the specific facts of the couple's case. There is one important exception to this: If a marriage in California lasted 10 years or more, the judge is not permitted to put an end date to an award of spousal support.

This is only a brief overview of spousal support in California. In fact, every person's situation is unique, and a decision that works for one couple may not work for another couple. Californians who want to learn more about how spousal support will affect them will want to seek the professional guidance they need to better understand the issue.