How Long Do You Have to Pay Spousal Support in California

By | September 11, 2012

How long do you pay spousal support (alimony) in an Orange County, California divorce?

Well, to answer that question, one needs to know how long the marriage lasted.  The rule of thumb, at least for marriages lasting less than 10 years, is that support is generally due for one-half the duration of the marriage.  There are exceptions, but they are usually made on a case by case basis.  For those who have never been divorced before or left their librettos at home, a long term marriage in California is one found to be lasting 10 years or more.

As an example, if you were married for 4 years, the duration of alimony would be expected to last 2 years.  This would be for the so-called “permanent support” order.  For marriages lasting 10 years or more, then the supporting spouse usually will pay the supported spouse alimony for an indefinite amount of time.  It is vague, yes, but the judges have the power to terminate support if a spouse does not become self-supporting after a reasonable amount of time.  That, too is vague, and is interpreted on a case by case basis.

People can fall anywhere on the alimony spectrum in terms of ability to become self-supporting.  A young person without any child care responsibilities and a good education might be expected to become self-supporting faster than one who is middle aged with no education or work experience, but who devoted their prime working years to raising the parties’ children.  The courts have a lot of flexibility to decide whether support is terminated or reduced after a period of time.

As spousal support is unique to the parties and their individual circumstances it is difficult to make general statements about alimony.  If you are curious about what the Court considers in making a long term spousal support order, a good section of the Family Code to read is section 4320.  That section of the California Family Code lists all of the things the Court should consider before awarding anyone long term spousal support.  It’s pretty dry reading, but well worth the effort.