Spousal Support and Its Enforcement

There are many issues dealt within the dissolution of marriage; from the division of community and separate property, child support, child custody and visitation, etc. Today we will discuss the issues of spousal support, the collection of support orders if they are not followed and modification.

Spousal support is money that one spouse pays to help support the other after the filing of a dissolution. In many cases, one spouse is the income earner of the family and the other, the homemaker. In such instances, upon a divorce the homemaker is entitled to Spousal Support based on legal guidelines to help support his or her separate home.

To determine the amount of spousal support, the Judge or a Mediator will consider such factors as:

  • The standard of living during the marriage, i.e., the amount of money spent for the individual’s everyday lifestyle.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • The age, health, earning capacity and job histories of both individuals.

The length of the marriage is an important criterion to determine the timeframe of the support order. If a marriage has lasted less than ten years, then the support obligation of either spouse is limited, whereas in the case of a marriage of ten years or longer, spousal support may be ordered for the spouse’s lifetime.

Sometimes at the time of divorce neither party needs spousal support, in such a situation either spouse can ask the judge to “reserve jurisdiction” over the issue of spousal support. Reserving the jurisdiction of this issue will allow either spouse to demand for spousal support at a later time, if circumstances change. Changes in circumstances can be the loss of a job, illness, inability to work due to the care of a minor child, etc. Therefore, even if spousal support is not a factor today, both spouses must be very careful before either waives this right.

The spouse receiving such support will be required to pay federal and state income taxes on the support payment. Additionally, the spouse making the payments will be entitled to a tax deduction to his or her income.

Similar to child support orders, there are many avenues to insure the collection of spousal support such as a wage garnishment. Once an order is in place and you are having trouble collecting from the other spouse, the help of legal counsel should be sought to file a motion to the court. This motion is called an OSC RE: Contempt of Court Order. The OSC will provide the Court notice that its’ order for either child support or spousal support has been ignored. A Judge can then find the spouse not following the order in contempt of Court by setting a fine on top of the current obligation or even sentence the spouse violating the order to jail until such time as the order has been followed.

On the other hand, an OSC Re: Modification can be filed by the spouse who is obligated to pay by a Court Order but due to “significant changes in circumstances” cannot. Similar to obtaining the original order, an OSC RE: Modification of the child support order or spousal support order can be filed and both parties can either have a trial on the issue or go to mediation to resolve the matter. Remember to change an order there must be significant changes in circumstances, whether it is in the income of the party, the health and/or the welfare of the children. The request for modification is not only used to change support orders, it can also be used to modify an existing parenting plan and bring the entire issue back in front of the judge.

Each situation can be simple or complicated and for each there is a manner in which to resolve your disputes. An attorney should be consulted to give the proper advice on these highly sensitive and life changing decisions.

This column is produced by Mary Der-Parseghian, Esq. For questions or comments, please send your message to 4727 Wilshire blvd., Suite 301, Los Angeles, CA 90010; E-mail: Mary@MaryDLaw.com or call at 323-937-2727. For additional articles please visit our webpage at www.MaryDLaw.com.

© 2011. Der-Parseghian Law Group


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