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Evaluating Spousal Support
Unlike child support, only vague guidelines are established in California for evaluating the amount of spousal support. Unfortunately, broad latitude is given by judges with varying attitudes. Different results appear in cases with similar factual situations. Generally speaking, spousal support is based on the reasonable needs of the wife as they relate to the husband's ability to pay, in order to maintain the Marital Standard of Living, established during the marriage. Major factors commonly employed to determine the appropriate amount of support are as follows:
Temporary spousal support is usually based solely on the respective earnings of the parties and their special needs at the moment. Although this may appear to unfairly benefit the spouse who was unemployed at the date of separation, Judges are more willing to order written proof of job contacts for the unemployed spouse if the supported spouse appears to be a viable candidate for work.
The courts tend to order professional assessments of a parties' ability if they have not worked for a substantial period of time. The law endorses the goal that the supported spouse should be self supporting within a reasonable period. In a marriage of short duration, of less than about 10 years this is determined to be half the length of the marriage.
In long term marriages, a significant number of older judges seem to mysteriously arrive at something close to 40% of husbands gross income, yet other judges will equalize the income, exactly and many judges seem to have a completely unpredictable pattern to their awards.
The good news for husbands is that no matter how much support is ordered, it goes to zero on the wife's remarriage and is ripe for modification on his retirement or any other change in circumstances.
Generally, debts incurred during the marriage are community obligations. This includes credit card bills, even if the credit card is in one name only. Student loans are an important exception because they are considered separate property debts. Community property possessions and community property debts are divided equally unless both spouses agree to an unequal division in writing. If spouses can't agree on the division of debts and possessions, a judge makes that decision.
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