Collaborative Practice Marin
How does Spousal Support Work in a Divorce?
Once divorcing couples begin living in separate households, they need to determine how their
respective expenses will be paid. If either does not have sufficient income or other resources to cover

their expenses, that spouse may have the ability to ask to receive spousal support (sometimes called alimony) to offset the deficit.

How is the amount determined? 

One method would be to focus on both spouses’ expenses.
Decide what expenses categories will be viewed as necessities and create budgets that include those
items. Then add to the budget discretionary categories to be paid if there is enough income. Next,
calculate the net spendable (post tax) dollars available to pay the budgets. If there is consensus it will to
be shared in some manner, discuss how much and for what period of time. 

Another method could be an income based focus. 
Income based means that each spouse will receive a percentage of the combined after tax income. 

What if an agreement about the amount isn’t reached? 
If support is being sought for the time period preceding the final divorce judgment, in California there is a court approved computer program that calculates the amount using income and deductions as the input. 
If there is a request for post-divorce decree support there is no approved formula. Instead, a court is required to balance multiple (14) factors that are specified in Family Code Section 4320, the concluding of which is “any other factors the
court determines are just and equitable”, to make an order for spousal support. The factors include
earning capacity, the ability to pay, both spouses’ needs “based on the standard of living established
during the marriage”, each spouses’ obligations and assets, age, health and the duration of the
marriage.

How long will support be paid? 
There is a legislative goal that the supported spouse become self-supporting. If the length of the marriage is not viewed to be of long duration, generally less than 10 years, support may be paid for one half the length of the marriage but the court has authority to reduce or extend this time period based on the other Section 4320 factors. With longer term marriages, the
court generally retains the ability to order spousal support. 

Support will terminate if the supported spouse remarries, or either spouse dies. Spouses can also agree to a termination date.

Can the support amount be changed? 
Yes, as long as the amount and duration are not expressly agreed to be non-modifiable. Amounts can change automatically after specified passages of time, or reviewed on certain dates. Continued receipt of support can be predicated on steps the supported spouse must take to earn income. If the support agreement or order does not include these types of provisions, the spouse requesting the change must show that current circumstances are different from those existing at
the time of the original order. Given the wide discretion a court has when asked to make a spousal support order, using a
consensual dispute resolution process (such as Collaborative Divorce) to obtain a mutually agreeable solution should be what divorcing spouses endeavor to accomplish in their divorce process.

Susan Stephen Coats is an attorney and mediator in San Francisco and Marin County.
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels




The Benefits of a Neutral Vocational Consultant

A neutral vocational consultant can be a huge benefit to those going through a Collaborative Divorce.  Oftentimes one spouse has stayed home to raise the children or for any number of reasons has been out of the labor market for an extended period of time.  It may be financially or emotionally necessary for that spouse to return to employment at some point in the future.

A neutral vocational consultant can evaluate the stay-at-home spouse's transferable skills, interests, medical issues (if any), education, and formal training.  The vocational consultant can then offer advice related to the current labor market and the necessary steps to be taken to position oneself to return to satisfying employment.

Sometimes, all that an unemployed or underemployed spouse may need is a revamp of a resume or open-ended vocational counseling.  Perhaps one might need assistance with informational interviewing.

In other instances, verifiable labor market research can be conducted by the consultant by contacting employers, recruiters, schools, and identifying available job openings in the spouse's area of interest.  It may be that experience can be obtained through an internship or short-term temporary positions.  The end result of the consultant's work is a roadmap for the unemployed or underemployed spouse to determine what is needed to update skills for a particular vocational goal.  The consultant can provide the costs and timelines.

There are other vocational resources in the community, such as Career One Stop Centers, which provide job seeking skills workshops and job club programs free of charge.  The federal government funds these centers.  There is also a site known as GFClearnfree.org, where one can study various computer tutorials at no charge.

In conclusion, a neutral vocational consultant is a valuable resource for any number of services that an individual may need to enter or reenter the workforce.

Ms. Rachel Hawk, CRC, ABVE has a Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She has worked in her field for over thirty years and has an office at The Collaborative Practice Center in Santa Rosa, CA. http://www.vocationalexperts.com

photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.


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About Collaborative Practice Marin

CPM is a community of legal, mental health and financial professionals working together to create client-centered processes for resolving conflict.  We are located in Marin County, California. 

Why Collaborative Divorce?

“Divorce is never easy but the collaborative process made mine bearable.  I had more control and therefore less stress and anxiety because I had an active role.”

~JF

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