Can the Court Order a Person to Work?

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California law expects each person to contribute to his or her own support according to their ability.  There is a general goal that each supported person becomes self-supporting within “a reasonable period of time.” (See California Family Code, Section 4320(l)) Opens new window  Exactly what this means will vary from case to case, but normally a support order will only be for a limited period of time – not for a lifetime.

When making an order for spousal support, the court may tell the person who is going to receive support that he or she “should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for his or her support needs.”

In this context, the court may order the person who is going to receive support to meet with a vocational training counselor. The counselor will try to decide the person’s ability to get a job based on the person’s age, health, education, marketable skills, employment history, and the current availability of employment opportunities.

The court may order the person paying the support to pay for counseling, retraining, or education of the supported person so he or she can get a job. (See California Family Code, section 4331) Opens new window

If the court decides that a person has the ability to work, and is purposely not doing so, the court may issue a "seek work order." 





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