The alimony reform movement in California. 25 years ago, Steve Clark committed to holy matrimony with his now ex-wife, Cindy. Had he realized at the time that he might be strapped with a lifetime of alimony payments, he says he would never have gotten married. The idea of forking over his hard-earned cash every month for spousal support—potentially until his dying day—just rubs him the wrong way. It is so abhorrent to him, in fact, that he has spearheaded an alimony reform initiative to address it.
Understanding Current California Spousal Support Laws
Under current California law, a judge may require one party to pay the other monthly spousal support in the event a marriage or domestic partnership ends. A number of factors converge in the determination of the amount and length of time required for these payments. Some of the issues considered include:
- How long the couple was married or in a domestic partnership;
- The standard of living and the amount needed to sustain it;
- Each person’s earning capacity;
- Whether or not child care is a factor inhibiting employment;
- The necessity for education or training for one partner;
- Whether or not domestic violence was an issue;
- The amount of property and debt to be shared.
The 10-Year Rule
Spousal support is designed to ensure support for a reasonable amount of time. In many instances, that winds up being half the length of the marriage. However, there is an important exception, and that is when the union is considered long-term—10 years or more. In that situation, a judge may choose not to assign an end date on spousal support payments. If one or both partners wish to end the requirement, a judgment must be sought and issued. The only other way to end the obligation is for the recipient of the support to remarry, register a new domestic partnership, or perish.
The Alimony Reform Initiative to Change California Law
The 10-year rule is presumably what motivated Clark to seek to change the law. His alimony reform proposal called for a maximum spousal support length of five years. Child support, he argues, is required for a maximum of just 18 years. Why should spousal support exceed that time frame, and interfere with core values such as accountability, self-reliance, and other rights?
In order to succeed in getting the matter on the ballot, Clark needed to get 623,000 signatures supporting the idea. If he had been successful, voters could weigh in on the matter in 2020. Continue reading →