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Changing Spousal Support in California

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In California, spouses can ask for spousal support in the following types of cases: annulments, legal separations, domestic violence restraining orders, and divorces.

Once one of these cases are filed with the court, a spouse can ask for a “temporary spousal support order” or for domestic partners, a “temporary partner support order.” After a temporary order has been entered, the judge can order support once the divorce has been finalized.

When a divorce case is finalized, it switches from temporary support to permanent or long-term spousal support.

When family court judges decide on an amount for spousal or partner support (for domestic partners), the judge considers numerous factors, including but not limited to:

  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The income, debts and assets of each spouse,
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage,
  • If having a job would make it difficult to care for the couple’s children, and
  • The tax implications of ordering support.

When spousal support is ordered, often it’s for one-half the length of the marriage, but that is not always the case. Since each couple’s situation varies, judges have the power to customize a spousal support arrangement based on the facts of the case.

If the couple has been married 10 or more years, they are said to have a “long-term” marriage, and therefore a judge may decide to award spousal support indefinitely.

What if the paying spouse falls behind?

If the paying spouse falls behind on their payments, they have to pay 10% interest each year on the balance owed. The interest continues to accrue and the judge does not have the authority to stop it.

If you owe past-due spousal support, your wages can be garnished and for an amount that is above your normal monthly support obligation. If you fail to pay support, it can result in serious consequences. You can be held in “contempt of court” and be arrested (most serious cases).

It is possible to change the amount of spousal support that is paid, but you must show the court that you have experienced a “change in circumstances.”

Maybe your ex no longer needs the support, or maybe your income has reduced significantly. Or perhaps your ex is not making a good faith attempt to get on their own feet.

For more details about changing a spousal support order in Los Angeles, contact Claery & Hammond, LLPfor a free consultation with one of our divorce attorneys!

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