A Change in the Economic Situation of the Parties Since the Initial Spousal Support Order May Result in a Decrease of the Spousal Support Obligation

Upon divorce, the divorce judge made an equal division of community assets and indebtness between husband and wife. Wife was awarded two debts totaling $13,011, and husband was to be held harmless from all liabilities in connection with those debts. Wife was granted spousal support of $1,000 per month and husband was further obligated to pay $300 per month in child support for their two minor children. Wife became insolvent and unable to meet her debt obligations assigned to her by the divorce court. As a result, the creditors went after husband and husband began paying wife’s debts in the amount of $253 per month. Husband’s divorce attorney obtained an order from the divorce court to reduce wife’s spousal support from $1,000 per month to $747 per month. The divorce court considered the obligations discharged in bankruptcy in determining the amount of spousal support wife was entitled to.

Wife’s divorce attorney appealed the divorce court’s decision to consider the obligations that were discharged in bankruptcy in determining the amount of spousal support she was entitled to. The Court explained that proper grounds may always be presented for modifying a spousal support order, provided that the moving party show the economic situation of the parties has changed since the initial order. The Court found there was a change in economic status. In this case, the husband had incurred an additional debt obligation as a result of the wife receiving a bankruptcy award reducing her indebtedness. Thus, the total obligations of the husband had increased. The Court decided that the divorce court had not abused its discretion in reducing the spousal support order to reflect the amount husband had to pay to satisfy wife’s financial debt obligations.

In Re Marriage of Clements (1982) 134 Cal. App. 3d 737