Gauging a Spouse’s Ability to Work in California Alimony Cases – Bufkin v. Bufkin

When a California court considers a divorcing spouse’s request for alimony or spousal support, it generally looks at two things:  the requesting spouse’s need for the money and the other spouse’s ability to pay. The first inquiry includes looking at the requesting spouse’s ability to work or otherwise earn income. As the state’s Second District Court of Appeals recently explained, the burden is usually on a spouse who says he or she can’t work to prove it.

moneyHusband and Wife separated in January 2013, following 26 years of marriage. More than one year later, a trial court granted Wife’s motion for a domestic violence restraining order that barred Husband from going within 100 yards of Wife. The trial judge later denied Husband’s request for spousal support, in which he claimed that he was no longer able to work in sheet metal because of an unidentified physical disability. The court noted that the Social Security Administration had denied Husband’s request for disability insurance benefits and that he had said during the litigation that he was actively looking for work.

Husband appealed the decision, arguing that the trial court wrongly denied his motion for spousal support based on the domestic violence restraining order. The Second District disagreed. Instead, the Court said the trial judge’s decision was based on the finding that Husband could still support himself. The Court noted in particular that Husband was relatively young, had retired for reasons unrelated to his supposed disability, and could find other work without jeopardizing his pension. The Court also observed that Husband had been turned down for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits, that he said he was actively looking for work, and that there was evidence showing that he was still physically capable of doing repairs on his home.

The Court further explained that Husband didn’t do much to help his own case. He did not, for instance, show that he had been repeatedly passed over for jobs, according to the Court. As a result, the Court said the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in declining to order Wife to pay Husband spousal support. “In short, the trial court—contrary to [Husband]’s core contention on appeal—denied the motion for spousal support for reasons unrelated to the restraining order and, in so doing, did not abuse its discretion,” the Court said.

Spousal support is a common issue in California divorce cases, but it isn’t nearly the only issue. The good news for people considering a divorce is that you can often avoid some of the pain and stress that often come with these situations by considering alternatives to traditional litigation, like mediation and collaborative divorce.

If you’re considering a divorce in California or facing spousal support issues after a divorce, it is imperative that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced family law attorney. With offices throughout the Bay Area, divorce lawyer Lorna Jaynes provides innovative legal tools to resolve family law disputes without the bitterness and acrimony engendered by the adversarial process.

Related blog posts:

Why Divorcing Spouses Should Consider Avoiding the California Court System, an Example – In re Marriage of Ma

Untangling Shared Business Interests in California Divorce Cases – In re Marriage of Greaux and Mermin

Why Must I File a Lawsuit to Obtain a Divorce in California