As married couples in California share their lives together, there are many situations where one spouse will earn more than the other spouse. During the marriage it does not matter, which spouse earns the money because both will be able to use whatever each spouse earns. Sometimes it makes financial sense for one parent to stay home and care for the children because the cost of child care offsets what the parent may earn if they are working. In other situations, one spouse may earn a significant amount of money and earn enough to support both spouses.
If couples in these types of financial situations go through a divorce though, how much each spouse earns will become a major issue. If one spouse earns most or all of the money, the spouse who earns significantly less will be in a very difficult situation financially. This is not fair to the spouse who may have sacrificed their career for the good of the family. That is why the spouse who earned most of the money may need to pay the non-working spouse spousal support.
Determining how long spousal support may last
The amount of spousal support a spouse pays and the length of time they will pay depends on a number of factors. For marriages lasting less than ten years though, the basic assumption is that the spousal support payments will be made for half the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted more than ten years, there are no assumptions on how long spousal support should last, but the basic principles guiding the decision is how long it will take before the spouse receiving spousal support to become self-supporting. However, if the receiving spouse remarries or passes away, spousal support will end.
Spousal support will not be an issue in every divorce in California. If spouses earn similar amounts, most likely neither spouse will receive spousal support. However, it will be an issue in many divorces and they are very fact-specific determinations. People will need to analyze their needs, their ability to earn a higher income and the other spouse’s ability to pay spousal support among other factors. Consulting with attorneys who understand spousal support determinations could be beneficial.