When a court orders one spouse (the supporting spouse) to pay support to the other spouse (the supported spouse), the court also gives a warning to the supported spouse to become self-supporting. This warning furthers the State of California’s goal for spouses to make reasonable, good faith efforts to become self-supporting, and that the failure to make such reasonable, good faith efforts may be a factor considered by the court as a basis for modifying or terminating spousal support.
Duty To Become Self Supporting
In California, the duty to become self supporting is the obligation a support spouse has to become self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time after divorce.
California Family Code Section 4330 states: (a) In a judgment of dissolution of marriage or legal separation of the parties, the court may order a party to pay for the support of the other party an amount, for a period of time, that the court determines is just and reasonable, based on the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into consideration the circumstances as provided in Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 4320); (b) When making an order for spousal support, the court may advise the recipient of support that he or she should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her support needs, taking into account the particular circumstances considered by the court pursuant to Section 4320, unless, in the case of a marriage of long duration as provided for in Section 4336, the court decides this warning is inadvisable.
Purpose of Spousal Support
The purpose of spousal support is to enable the supporting party to become self-supporting. Often, a supported spouse has the expectation that they are entitled to support and that it should be forever. The receipt of spousal support and a share of the community property in a divorce does not relieve the supported spouse from their duty to become self supporting and from being accountable for their financial future and the continued need for spousal support.
In a proceeding to modify or terminate spousal support, the supported spouse’s lifestyle, actions, and financial decisions, all will be scrutinized by the supporting spouse (or their attorney) and the court. In addition to the analysis of their employment capabilities and receipt of other income, a supported spouse’s investment strategies will be analyzed to determine if they have reasonably managed their share of any community property received. Only after the supported spouse proved a need will the court order an increase or continuation of spousal support.
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