As a Judicial Officer, I often heard issues involving spousal support where the parties spent more money in attorney’s fees than the amount that was in dispute! Oftentimes this issue can be very emotionally charged-“She doesn’t deserve it ”or “He is hiding income and he can pay it.” Fortunately there are statutory rules and case law that penalize parties who do not completely and accurately disclose their income and income producing assets. Additionally, there is case and statutory authority that distinguishes between temporary and permanent support, short term and long-term marriages, and other objective criteria that enable the parties to settle this issue in good faith without protracted expensive litigation.
Although temporary support criteria are oftentimes fairly easily determined with the use of an X Spouse or Dissomaster program, permanent or post judgment support is much more discretionary utilizing all of the factors within Family Code Section 4320. When the parties decide to have a Judicial Officer decide these issues, they are both taking a risk, because the result is so uncertain, and the ultimate decision depends on which of the 4320 factors the Judicial Officer determines are of the greatest importance. As a result, the best alternative to protracted Court litigation, which necessarily includes an uncertain, potentially disagreeable result, is to utilize the services of an experienced Mediator. This person can apprise the parties of the parameters of a potential compromise, and lead the parties in a kind, thoughtful discussion to achieve and amicable, fair result. Mediation occurs without the pressure of Court dates and a high-tension courtroom, and allows the decision making process to remain in the hands of those who know more about their case than anyone-the clients!