29 Nov Ballot Proposal to Change California’s Spousal Support Law
Spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony, is a regular payment made by one spouse to the other after divorce. It’s not determined by gender, only by relative incomes. It is designed to protect the living standards of one of the spouses who was dependent on the other financially during the marriage or civil partnership.
Spousal support is not supposed to last forever. California family law makes a distinction between marriages and partnerships that have lasted less than 10 years and those that lasted for longer periods. Although there is no absolutely fixed amount set, a judge may determine that support payments should last for at least half the time the marriage has lasted. For example, if a couple go through a divorce after 8 years of marriage, spousal support may be ordered to be paid to the spouse least able to earn an independent income for half of that period, i.e. 4 years. The judge then has the discretion to extend this period or shorten it depending on circumstances.
For longer periods of marriage, a judge also has the discretion to order continuous payments for as long as the formerly dependent spouse is still alive. The person paying support may apply for a change in the amount paid or a complete halt to payments if financial circumstances substantially change, e.g. the ex-spouse receiving payments remarries, inherits a substantial sum or gains employment.
Although spousal support is not gender specific, it is fair to say that there are more men paying it than women. Following on from that is the fact that there are more men grizzling about paying alimony than women. One man who hopes to change state alimony laws is a resident of Huntington Beach called Steve Clark. He is intending to introduce a ballot for a referendum that would propose a limit on alimony payments of a maximum of 5 years.
Clark has personal experience of divorce that has led to him attempting to change the law. After his marriage of 25 years came to an end he was ordered to pay $1,000 a month to his ex-spouse. Unless her financial situation changes significantly, Clark has been ordered to maintain payments until the end of his ex-wife’s life.
Clark points out that child support is only required until a child reaches his/ her 18th birthday. His argument is that the alimony payment is being viewed as “free money” and unless there is a finite time limit for it to be continued to be paid there is little incentive for the beneficiary of the payment to become financially independent.
It is not an automatic or straightforward process petitioning for a ballot. The individual or organization wishing to do, like Steve Clark, need to get a minimum number of signatures to show support for the ballot. In the case of the ballot proposed here, this would mean getting over 623,000 signatures if the ballot is to have a chance of being put to a referendum in 2020. So far, Clark has only 2,000 signatures and is hoping to raise enough money to pay a petition company to help get the requisite number of signatures required.
The state has strict laws about paying spousal support. If a spouse has been ordered to pay child support and spousal support or both, then a failure to keep up with payments could lead to a charge of contempt of court being laid. This tends to be the last resort and other measures like wage garnishing and a ten percent penalty rate will usually be used before criminal charges are laid.
If you are unsatisfied with your spousal support payments, either as the person who pays, or the one who receives payment, it is best to talk to a family law attorney before taking the law into your own hands and suspending payments. Whatever the circumstances of your grievances, you can get professional legal help from the Law Office of Damian Nolan in Lakewood and Long Beach California. Call Damian Nolan at 562-634-1115.