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Under Cal. Civ. Code § 4811(b), the court is vested with the power to modify spousal support unless the parties specifically agree to preclude judicial modification.
On March 1, 1978, appellant Guy Hufford and his ex-wife, respondent Dorothy Hufford had, prior to their divorce, signed an agreement that provided for a given amount of spousal support for respondent, to terminate only upon her death or remarriage, neither of which had occurred. Paragraph 10 of the agreement provided that the same may not be altered, amended, or modified, except by an instrument in writing executed by parties. On July 14, 1982, appellant husband filed an order to show cause for modification of spousal support on grounds of alleged reduced ability to pay because of lesser income and increased obligations for a new wife and five children, coupled with ex-wife's reduced need. Respondent opposed the motion on the ground that paragraph 10 of the agreement rendered he spousal support provision non-modifiable. The superior court denied husband's request for modification on the ground that Cal. Civ. Code § 4811 precluded modification of support when a support agreement contained no provision for modification and the superior court had not provided for a reservation of jurisdiction to modify spousal support in the divorce order. Appellant challenged the superior court's decision.
Did Cal. Civ. Code § 4811 preclude modification of the support agreement in question?
The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, holding that the provision did not meet the requirements of Civ. Code, § 4811, subd. (b), to exclude judicial modification. It held that nowhere in the agreement was there a limitation, aided by implication, on the court's power to modify support, noting that the agreement stated that "we" (the parties) may not modify the document. The court held that since, under Civ. Code, § 4811, subd. (b), a court was vested with the power to modify spousal support unless the parties specifically agree to preclude judicial modification, draftsmen should specifically state that "spousal support was non-modifiable" within the provision for spousal support if that was the intended agreement of the parties.