Can My Wife Force Me to Continue to Pay Spousal Support Even Though She Can Work?

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“I was married for 21 years & divorced now for 8 years. My ex-wife has retained an attorney to request “lifetime spousal support” and to claim half of my retirement (even so she agreed to and was given a buy-out on my retirement at the time of the divorce. Which is documented in court papers). I have been informed from our daughter that the basis for doing this is that she had breast cancer (approximately 4 years ago & has been in remission since) and cannot work. However, approximately one and a half years ago she opened a business with our daughter, which failed. She also co-operates a horse breeding ranch in Missouri where she lives with her boyfriend. Just before coming to Ca. to retain an attorney, she had a breast augmentation, a tummy tuck, liposuction & botox (all of it was cosmetic and not health related). I have faithfully paid both spousal support & child support for our two sons. Our younger son just turned 18 and I now send child support directly to him, as he has not lived at home for 2 years now and is self-supporting and going to college. She stated she is also suing for back child support (for the payments I sent directly to him as of his 18th birthday). She initiated the divorce by leaving me for another man, I have complied with all of our divorce judgements. I would like to move on with my life, but according to our daughter (which I am actually the step-father of) her mother/ my ex-wife is worried because there is no more child support and her spousal will be running out in less than two years. She was a licensed dental assistant while we were married and in the 8 plus years she has been healthy enough and smart enough to operate a horse breeding ranch and to open an antique & tea room store. I will never be able to purchase a home or have any type of comfortable life-style if I am forced to care for her indefinitely! Do you think a judge would grant her what she is requesting? ”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

With a marriage of long duration (over 10 years) the Court can order permanent spousal support. If there is a provision for spousal support termination on a date certain, then it may be that order is non-modifiable under California Family Code Section 3591(c). If the issue of modification is open-ended in your judgment, then she is within her rights to seek a modification – i.e. to extend support.

Generally, under FC4320 there are a bunch of factors to help decide the reasonable timeframe for spousal support. If she can be reasonably self-supporting, then one can make he argument to nudge her in that direction – work efforts orders, step down in support and whatnot.

I hope you wrote checks to your son, so there is a record of your payments. There is a good chance that if he was out on his own, and you sent checks directly to him, then you will be able to receive credit for those payments. Of course anyone reading this should know that there really is no substitute for modifying court orders when circumstances change in order to remove any confusion. It is almost always better to “know” then to have an “argument.”

If the pension was fully and fairly divided or accounted for in the judgment, you should be fine. If not, the Court would have jurisdiction to divide any undivided community property that should have been divided at the time of your dissolution of marriage.



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Author: House Attorney

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