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What Kelly Clarkson’s Divorce Teaches Us About Spousal Support

Kelly Clarkson filed for divorce from her husband Brandon Blackstock in June 2020 after almost seven years of marriage. Last month, a judge ordered Ms. Clarkson to pay her husband nearly $200,000 a month in spousal and child support. If you’re gasping at the amount, you should be – this is a huge amount of support to be owed to a future ex-spouse every month. However, if you are a celebrity, it might not make a huge dent. Especially since Ms. Clarkson earns more than $1.5 million per month in income according to a recent court filing.

Even so, the order details that Ms. Clarkson pay $150,000 per month in spousal support and $45,601 per month in child support and is strictly temporary support until a final settlement is worked out. Although this is temporary, it is interesting to wonder what the likelihood would be that Ms. Clarkson be ordered to pay her ex-husband this amount in permanent spousal support. This is important to think about, especially given that Mr. Blackstock made the very deliberate choice to leave his career as an entertainment manager and become a rancher full time. Therefore, it seems that Ms. Clarkson is the breadwinner in the family. However, he still spends some time managing his remaining client, country artist Blake Shelton. These facts are important when a court considers ordering permanent spousal support. In this article, we will detail what judges look at when ordering a permanent support order and a supported spouse’s duty to become self-sufficient.

Permanent Spousal Support

When issuing temporary spousal support, judges use a guideline formula dictated by their local rules and California statutes. However, when the judge makes his or her final spousal order, the judge must consider the factors outlined in California Family Code Section 4320. A few factors to note are: the length of the marriage, each spouse’s need and ability to pay, their age and health, and the supported spouse’s earning capacity and skills.

As you can see, there is a lot for the judge to consider when issuing an order for permanent support. Therefore, facts like leaving your job and how much earning potential you have become important. Especially when we talk about having the supported spouse eventually become self-sufficient.

Length of Spousal Support

How long is permanent? Well, the duration of spousal support is left to the discretion of the court within certain general equitable principals and guidelines. A general rule is that spousal support will last for half the length of a marriage that lasted less than 10 years .. However, in longer marriages, the court may not set a spousal support duration. The burden will be on the party who pays to prove that spousal support is not necessary at some future point in time.

Furthermore, since 1997, California Family Code Section 4320 has required the court, in resolving disputes over spousal support, to consider "the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time." California divorce courts also like to use the “self-support goal” factor in relation to determination of the supported spouse's earning capacity. Specifically, this factor plays a key role in initial spousal support awards that create contingent-termination orders or step-down provisions.

So, sorry Brandon. It looks like you might not get to be a rancher forever like you planned. If you are seeking a spousal support order, please contact our office to schedule a consultation. Here at Mello & Pickering, LLP we have extensive experience settling and litigating family law matters and can guide you as needed to ensure a successful resolution.

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