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.
Husband 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.