A job loss in the middle of a divorce can add extra stress to the process for people in California. It may increase the support obligations for a higher-earning spouse, or a lower-earning spouse might have to accept lower or deferred support payments until the other spouse finds another job.
The circumstances around a person’s dismissal may be relevant. The court may look differently on a person let go because of misconduct compared to someone who was laid off. Some people who work for a friend or family member might also try to use an alleged layoff to manipulate finances and avoid paying support. People should be aware that they may be held to the same income standards of their most recent position and should not try to take a lower-paying job in order to avoid support obligations.
A person who is laid off might also receive a significant severance package that could be included in assets to be divided in the divorce or that might be used to continue paying support to a lower-earning spouse. Assuming both people are operating in good faith, if the higher-earning person loses a job, couples may want to create an agreement that the person will begin paying child and spousal support at the full income-based amount upon starting new employment.
Spousal and child support can be important for a lower-earning or stay-at-home spouse. They are often at a financial disadvantage in a divorce both in terms of resources and knowledge of the family finances. However, in a community property state like California, the lower-earning spouse is entitled to an equal share of the marital assets. Some couples might agree to use property division to offset some of the support paid. Whatever the approach, lower-earning spouses may want to take legal steps to secure themselves financially.