Impact of Domestic Violence on Spousal Support

When California couples file for a legal separation or divorce, the family court may order the higher-earning spouse to pay the other spouse financial support each month – this is called “spousal support” in California. Support can be paid while the divorce is pending or after the divorce is final, or both.

If you are the higher-earning spouse and your husband or wife is abusive, you may have serious reservations about paying him or her spousal support and reasonably so. So, the question becomes, “Do I have to pay spousal support if my spouse has committed domestic violence against me or our children?”

Marital Misconduct & Spousal Support

Before we discuss domestic violence and spousal support, we’re going to discuss spousal support in more detail. For starters, in order for a spousal support order to be issued, there has to be a court case. A spouse can ask a family court judge for spousal support in a legal separation, divorce, annulment or a domestic violence restraining order case.

A lower-earning or dependent spouse can ask for spousal support while their case is pending in the courts – this is known as “temporary spousal support.” Spousal support can also be ordered after a divorce is finalized through the final divorce judgment.

Spousal support is not automatic in a California divorce. Much of it depends on the dependent spouse’s need for support and the higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay it. In any case, the judge considers a number of factors before making a decision, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income, and assets, etc.

While most marital misconduct including adultery are not factors the courts consider, there is an exception and that is domestic violence.

According to the California Courts, “The judge will also consider any history of violence at the hands of the spouse or partner to be supported against the person that would pay the support. And there is a rebuttable presumption against giving spousal or partner support to an abusive spouse or partner who has a criminal conviction for domestic violence against the other spouse or partner.”

We hope this article cleared up any questions that you have. If you need more information about spousal support, domestic violence or divorce, contact Burch, Coulston & Shepard, LLP for a free case evaluation.

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