T.C. & D.C.: Spousal Support; Changed Circumstances Rule

In re Marriage of T.C. & D.C. (Spousal Support; Changed Circumstances Rule)

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District

Published Opinion, (2018) 30 Cal.App.5th 419

File Date:
Filed 12/18/2018

In the case In re Marriage of T.C. & D.C. (Spousal Support; Changed Circumstances Rule), the former wife moved to decrease her spousal support (alimony) obligation to her former husband, claiming that the significant increase in her earnings after the support agreement was made justified a cap on support. The family court found that the increased earnings were a material change in circumstances and reduced spousal support. The former husband appealed, arguing that the reasonable expectation of the parties, as expressed in their settlement agreement, contemplated that his wife’s salary would increase (so the fact it went up was not a change in circumstances).

He also claimed the parties intended there would be no cap on additional spousal support (alimony), no matter how much the wife made. The appellate court agreed that a change in circumstances was shown, but reversed because the family court failed to consider the parties’ reasonable expectations the wife’s earnings would increase. The marital settlement agreement required the wife to pay $850 per month in spousal support to her husband plus 10% of any income earnings over $180,000 per year as additional support. They agreed the order setting support was modifiable and that it met the husband’s reasonable needs. The family court capped the additional support payments at $990 per year, which was the amount of her bonus income in the year the agreement was made.

Without the cap, the additional support payment would be $19,100 for the year the former wife filed her request to reduce support. The appellate court held that the cap of $990 per year on the additional support payments was too low to meet the reasonable expectations of the parties when they settled their case because they anticipated the wife’s income would continue to increase after the settlement. The statement in the marital settlement agreement that the additional support met the husband’s reasonable needs, coupled with a provision in the agreement that any modification of support would consider the annual incomes of the parties during marriage, evidenced their intent that he would receive the benefit of increased support as the wife’s income went up.

TC & DC 2018

The case listed here was not handled by Walzer Melcher unless the description states that Walzer Melcher appeared as counsel.