Last week we ended by covering that when a “long term marriage” (over ten years) is terminated in California, the court will often not set a termination date for spousal support.
If the court orders that monthly support be paid until remarriage, death or further order of the court, the supporting spouse may come back to court, perhaps every few years, to ask the court to review, reduce or terminate the support order. A reduction or termination can be obtained based upon new circumstances such as: the supported spouse is making more money, or has had time to obtain the education and training to earn more but has refused to do so, or spousal support has been paid for one-half of the length of the marriage or other relevant factors. Many times with a long-term marriage the supporting spouse has to come back to court several times to eventually end the support award.
The court may at some point enter an order that the monthly support will be reduced to “zero” and be “reserved.” This means that the supported spouse can come back to court at a later time and request reinstatement of support if there is a change of circumstances warranting that; i.e. disability, loss of job through no fault of their own, etc.
It is important to have a “warning” included in any spousal support order directing the supported spouse to seek education, training or employment. This is called a “Gavron Warning.” If this warning is not issued to the supported spouse, the supporting spouse may be out of luck when returning to court because the supported spouse may take the position that he or she didn’t know they had to pursue an education or work.
It is also important to remember that if you and your spouse make any agreements that change an existing a support order, be sure to put it in writing and file it with the court. Many cases exist where one spouse thought he or she had an agreement to reduce or terminate support, only to find out that the other spouse later states there was no agreement. One might face having to pay back support plus interest if the occurs.
Child Support is more predictable because it is always based on a formula involving the parties’ income and their relative percentages of time with the children. Child support determinations remain with the Court until the Child reaches the age of majority.
Do let us know if anything further is needed from us in the Family Law arena. We continue to offer a free phone consultation.