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ASK THE JUDGE

Does Retirement Change a Spousal Support Agreement?

July 08, 1989|B. TAM NOMOTO | B. Tam Nomoto is a Municipal Court judge in Orange

Q. I'm 64 years old, fully employed, and currently paying nearly 35% of my take-home pay as spousal support to my former wife.

I would like to retire this fall when I reach the age of 65. If my full-time employment ceases at that time, I will be unable to make that large spousal support. How do I get that payment legally reduced or possibly eliminated? Will I be obligated to make payments to her out of my Social Security, my IRA account or proceeds from my tax-free annuities? She has already received a large share of my IRA account in last year's court settlement.

A.A., Santa Ana

A. You should check with the attorney who represented you at your divorce regarding the possibility of your former wife claiming any further interest in your assets. The disposition of community property assets is governed by your property settlement agreement, and the terms of that agreement will normally control the ownership rights of you and your former wife.

If you are retiring, and your income will be affected, you can petition the Superior Court for a modification of your support order. You can either do that through an attorney or by a simplified method for parties who are not represented by counsel. In fact, this latter method requires that parties do not appear in court with an attorney.

To assist you in using the simplified method, the Orange County Superior Court has prepared a packet of the necessary forms that must be completed; a detailed instruction sheet is included. The packet can be obtained from the civil department of the clerk's office in the Superior Court.

You should be aware that even though this procedure does not permit you to appear in court with an attorney, you may still seek advice from one should you have any questions.

Q. Can a conscientious employee of a company be sued in a work-related lawsuit or would the company that employs that person be required to assume legal responsibility for the legal action? It would seem that if an employee could be held personally responsible, his home, savings, etc., would be jeopardized.

S.D., Huntington Beach

A. Your letter does not provide much detail, so the answer will have to be a general one. I will assume that you are referring to an employee who does not have any type of ownership interest in the company.

The company does normally assume responsibility for an employee's actions, provided the employee has or appeared to have acted within the scope of his employment.

An employee, however, can generally be held responsible for his actions regardless of whether the company is liable or not.

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