Alimony obligations and California law. If you live in California and are struggling to make sense of California’s spousal support rules, you are not alone. There is plenty of opposition to having to pay alimony in the state, none more aggressive than the battle being waged by Steve Clark of Huntington Beach.
Clark is on round two of his confrontation with state expectations, advocating for a ballot initiative that would place severe restrictions on the length of time a former spouse should be expected to make spousal support payments. As one might guess, Clark himself is divorced, and has been ordered to pay his former spouse one grand a month for the rest of his life. That, he says, is just plain unreasonable. He claims that if he had known there was a possibility of getting stuck with that kind of obligation a quarter century ago, he would never have tied the knot in the first place.
Under California law, spousal support, or alimony, may be ordered by a court under four specific circumstances:
- Legal separation;
- Domestic violence resulting in a restraining order.
The amount of spousal support is determined based on a number of factors, including:
- Assets and debts accrued;
- The financial needs and abilities of each partner;
- Whether holding a job outside the home would impact childcare needs;
- Whether one partner supported another while getting an education;
- Whether one partner sacrificed a career in order to raise a family;
- The health of each person involved;
- Whether or not domestic violence is a factor.
Considerations Before a Judge
When determining the amount and/or length of alimony obligations, the judge generally considers a number of factors, including the workforce skills of the individual getting support, and his or her potential earning capacity. In terms of the length of time support obligations last, the law requires “a reasonable period of time,” which generally is considered to be half the length of the marriage. So, for a marriage that lasted five years, alimony payments might be for two and a half years. However, judges do have discretion to adjust the length of time as they see fit.
In the case of marriages that exceeded 10 years in length, judges frequently do not set an end date for alimony obligations. In such instances, it has the potential to go on until one or both parties die.
The California Alimony Obligations Ballot Initiative
Clark feels the lifelong commitment to caring for a former spouse is unreasonable, and is fighting to cap alimony payments at five years. Why, he asks, should alimony continue for a lifetime, when child support ends after 18 years? The petition needs 623,000 signatures in order to move forward. Continue reading →