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Spousal Support: Legal vs. Emotional

In court, the spousal support process starts when the judge awards temporary support (before trial). Typically, this is a straight calculation based on the parties’ respective incomes and is a higher number than will be awarded for a permanent support order. In making a permanent support award, the judge will consider, among other things, a list of factors found in California Family Code Section 4320. Among those factors are the earning capacities of the parties, the marketable skills of the party requesting support, and the ability to pay.

While this process may be efficient for couples who are in litigation, it does not take into account the underlying concerns that drives the decision of whether to pay/accept support in mediation, the amount and duration of such support. Where a judge is only able to consider legal factors, in mediation, you and your spouse can consider emotional factors as well.

We see many different emotional factors come into play during our mediations. For example, fear is a driving emotion for many spouses who have been stay at home moms or dads. They worry about rejoining the work force and how they will pay their bills after the divorce. Also, anger plays a role. Often times, if a spouse is angry due to infidelity or other unfortunate circumstances that occurred during the marriage, he or she may request more support. Further, an angry spouse may try to withhold support due to anger. We also see guilt play a role in these meetings. If a spouse has been unfaithful or unkind, he or she may offer a higher amount of support to try to feel better about the guilt they have.

In mediation, we hear your emotional concerns. However, we do our best to allow the law to guide you when making a decision. Unlike litigation, however, the decision is still on your terms. Therefore, you will ideally end up with a spousal support order that meets the needs of the supported party and is within the supporting party’s ability to pay. To learn more about spousal support in your case, call us today.

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