Length of the Marriage & How it Effects Spousal Support
Contributed by: Farzad
Family Law, APC
heard a funny line from the HBO show Entourage recently.
It was spoken by the character Ari Gold. He said to
his wife something to the effect of "come on honey,
we've been married for 10 years and there is no prenup,
I'm not going anywhere."
is actually a lot of truth to that statement. For the
higher earner spouse, the length of the marriage can
have some serious consequences on spousal support. Let's
look at California law.
a court decides the length of time that spousal support
(alimony) should be given by one spouse to another,
it will look toward the length of the marriage for guidance.
Generally, unless the marriage was a marriage of "long
duration," the court will likely order spousal support
for about one-half the length of the marriage. For example,
in a 5 year marriage, spousal support may be as long
as 2 and 1/2 years. One-half the length of the marriage
is considered a "reasonable amount of time" for the
supported spouse to become self-supporting. This is
not a hard and fast rule however. The court still has
discretion to order support for a shorter or longer
period of time based on other factors and the circumstances
of both spouses including job history, education, and
ability to work.
If the marriage was a marriage of "long duration," however,
the court may require spousal support for a longer period
of time for the supported spouse to become self-supporting.
This can be "lifetime" support until the supported spouse
becomes remarried or either dies. A marriage generally
is a marriage of long duration if it was 10 years or
longer, measured from the date of marriage to the date
of separation. That "date of separation" issue can get
The court also has the discretion to consider periods
of separation during the marriage in deciding whether
the marriage was one of long duration. Spouses sometimes
break up, live apart and get back together. The court
does consider that when deciding if a marriage is longer
than 10 years. The opposite is also true. Just because
a marriage was less than 10 years does not mean the
court will not consider it of a long duration. The rules
are a bit flexible and depend mostly on the circumstances
of the two spouses.
I am often asked "what about the time we were together
before marriage?" The court generally does not include
a period of cohabitation prior to marriage in its determination
of the length of marriage. However, the court may include
the duration of the parties' previous marriage to each
other. Sometimes, a couple may break up, divorce and
then get remarried only to divorce again. If the marriages
combined were more than 10 years, the court may consider
that when deciding if the marriage is a long term marriage.
Family Law, APC
1851 East 1st Street, Suite 1150
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Telephone (714) 937-1193
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