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The basics: California spousal and partner support

California spouses and domestic partners can request financial support when a marriage ends or a partnership dissolves.
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    January 10, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/ -- The basics: California spousal and partner support

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With the end of a marriage or domestic partnership comes a time of uncertainty. Who will get the house? Who will get custody of the children? How will assets and debts be divided? How will the marital income support two different households?

These and other finance-related questions - and the stress they bring - take on a new level of importance in situations where one spouse has been the primary breadwinner while the other focused on domestic responsibilities (taking care of the children, keeping up the house, etc.). For the lesser-earning spouse, economic issues take precedence because he or she now needs to find a way to become financially independent. This can be difficult in a stagnant job market if there are gaps in that spouse's work experience.

Thankfully, California's legislature has recognized the potential financial difficulties inherent with the end of a marriage. The state's laws allow the lesser-earning spouse to seek financial assistance from the other through spousal (or partner) support, also known as "alimony."

California law

Spousal/partner support is addressed in California Family Code Section 4320. The law establishes the standard by which alimony awards are determined, mainly whether the "earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage."

That may seem like an easy thing to determine, but there are actually many variables at play in each case. The statute sets forth the numerous factors a judge should consider while making a determination about whether an award of support is appropriate. These factors include (but are not limited to):
-Marketable skills of the party seeking support, including the possible application of those skills in the local job arena and the time it would take to develop other, more marketable skills (through education or training)
-Whether there are gaps in the earning history of the party seeking support because he or she ran the household instead of working outside the home
-The degree to which the party seeking support contributed to the earning capacity of the party from whom support is sought
-Ability of the party from whom payments are requested to make them
-Needs of each party (based on the standard of living established during the marriage/partnership)
-Property and debts of each party (or marital debts that will be apportioned)
-Whether making the party seeking support work would affect custodial children
-Age and health of all parties
-Any history of domestic violence in the home
-Tax consequences of a support award
-Hardships that would come for the paying party or recipient should an award be granted
-Whether it is realistic for the supported spouse to become self-sufficient
-Any other factors the court deems relevant to the determination

Generally, the law allows for alimony awards that are "reasonable" in length. California interprets a "reasonable" time as being half of the length of the marriage, but a judge deciding a support request can use his or her discretion to set an amount and length that best fits the needs of the lesser-earning spouse.

Do you still have questions about California spousal (or partner) support awards, or how they tie in to a divorceproceeding? Do you need help filing a request for support, or contesting a request that you pay? Would you like to learn more about how California family courts make these important financial determinations? If so, seek the advice of a family law attorney in your area.

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