In 1970 only 4% of husbands had wives who earned more than they did. In 2007, that share rose to 22%. These figures come from a new Pew Research Center study, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.   I’ll bet that the percentage of wives who out earn their husbands is even higher today.   As more women out earn their husbands, this is having an impact on spousal support, what used to be called alimony here in California. Traditionally, wives have been the recipients of spousal support in divorce.

     However, it is both sexist and just plain wrong to assume that only women can receive spousal support and that women never pay spousal support to men.   The California Family Code is gender neutral and family law courts can and routinely do order wives and ex-wives to pay spousal support to their husbands or ex-husbands.

     Remember, that unless otherwise agreed, spousal support payments are tax deductible to the payor and are taxable to the payee.   However, to obtain the tax deduction, there must be either a court order, judgment or written agreement requiring one party to pay spousal support to the other.

     Here in California, there is a presumption that in a short term marriage, which is defined as a marriage of less than 10 years, spousal support will last no more than one-half the length of the marriage.   However, that is presumption and can be rebutted.   Importantly, a party receiving spousal support should always keep in mind that it is the public policy of the State of California that they become self-supporting within a reasonable period of time, and the failure to do so may be one of the factors a family court considers in reducing or terminating spousal support.

For more information, please call Philip A. Wasserman at 661-294-8484 or email him at