In California courts have ruled that it is okay to consider a husband’s retirement income when awarding spousal support, even though the retirement income was awarded to a party in the division of property. In Irmo White (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 1022, the court determined that a claim for support is not a claim to an ownership interest, but is a claim that monthly pension benefits “constitute income to (a party) which must be considered when assessing ability to pay spousal support.”
In White, the husband had been awarded the pension, while the wife was awarded the house. In reaching its decision regarding husband’s pension, the court determined that any division of community property should be considered to be distinct from the ordering of support.
Because the division of community property is premised on absolute ownership of community assets by both parties, each must receive a respective full share. In contrast, an award of spousal support is “broadly discretionary,” and it is based on considerations of equity in which the trial court needs to consider such factors as the needs and incomes of both parties.