Sandra Mayberry San Diego Family Law Attorney | California Changing Spousal Support Law

Sandra Mayberry, San Diego Family Law Attorney says, “One controversial subject is spousal support, or what we used to call alimony.” How long should a working spouse be required to support a non-working spouse? How much should the support be? What is the non-working spouse’s obligation to get back to work?

Spousal support (what we used to call alimony) is a highly contested area of debate and concern in family law, not only because divorce proceedings are often heated and messy, but also because the amount of spousal support paid or received can have a great impact on both parties after the divorce proceedings are finalized. California has detailed laws on how a Court determines spousal support, but those laws give each Judge a tremendous amount of discretion. Thus, the amount paid is often unpredictable. The factors a Judge considers are extremely broad and subject to interpretation and, in Mayberry’s view, even the Judge’s personal background. If you’re interested in reading all of these factors go to California Family Code section 4320.

Lifestyles can change dramatically after a divorce and non-working spouses, like stay-at-home mothers or fathers, can often find it difficult to break into the job market after a divorce. Judges in California are required to take this factor into consideration with the calculation of spousal support. Although reality of the parties’ financial circumstances may put both parties in much poorer financial positions than they were during their marriage. Another factor a Court must consider is the ‘self-support goal’. This part of the law first encourages spouses to make reasonable efforts to assist one another during the separation period, but it also contains a provision that provides for a “reasonable period of time” which is interpreted and defined by each Judge, often in different ways. The courts do attempt to ensure that each spouse is able to support themselves and survive after divorce. Some Courts will define that period of time, but many do not. It then puts the burden on the paying spouse to convince the Judge the person receiving support has had more than a reasonable amount of time. One of the most important factors a Court considers is age and health, which can have a dramatic impact on that reasonable period of time.

Mayberry told us, “A good lawyer will advise their client who is receiving support that it is in their best interest to go back to school or find employment as soon as possible.” This advice may be very different for a client who realistically cannot work or return to school because of age or health. The most important point is that things can occur with the working spouse such as a job loss or disability which were not anticipated. However, a working spouse should recognize that California provides support for their non-working spouse, and they should work towards helping that spouse to get employment. That may mean giving them time to return to school, requesting they set specific goals but being open to providing support.

You may find more about Sandra Mayberry by visiting: Or, visit the Law Office of Sandra L. Mayberry at 8325 University Avenue, La Mesa, CA 91942. Mayberry can be reached by phone at (619) 697-0201.