In Determining Whether Spousal Support Will Continue a Divorce Court Shall Consider the Totality of the Circumstances

After the dissolution of a 70-month marriage, wife’s divorce attorney appealed an order terminating her spousal support. During the marriage wife had sustained injuries that left her permanently disabled and unable to hold a job that would require the use of common sense. Through a stipulated interlocutory judgment, husband received his Navy pension, and a Volkswagen car, while wife was awarded the house, a jaguar car, spousal support that amounted to $500 per month and medical coverage for two-years. Wife’s divorce lawyer petitioned the divorce court to extend spousal support, and the divorce court extended the $500 spousal support order for one more year. However, the divorce court explained the marriage had been short in duration, there were no children, and the parties had established their lives before marriage. Subsequently, the divorce court reduced the order to $350 per month. Based on the totality of the circumstances the divorce court terminated the support order.

On appeal, the Court determined it was not an abuse of discretion to terminate spousal support where a marriage was relatively short, no children were born, and wife remains mentally disabled. The Court explained that a divorce court making a spousal support award must consider: “(1) the earning capacity of each spouse; (2) the needs of each party; (3) the obligations and assets of each party; (4) the duration of the marriage; (5) the ability of the supported spouse to engage in gainful employment without detriment to dependent children; (6) the age or health of the parties; (7) standard of living of the parties; (8) other factors the court deems just and equitable. “

The Court explained the divorce court had considered all of the circumstances and found that husband was able to make payments, and wife was unable to continue working. However, based on the duration of the marriage and the fact that the couple had each individually established their life by the time of the marriage the court determined that the burden to support wife should shift from husband to society. The Court of Appeal agreed with husband’s divorce lawyer and held that the divorce court did not abuse discretion when it terminated spousal support from husband.

In re Marriage of Wilson (1988) 201 Cal. App. 3d 913