Whether you are on the paying or receiving end of alimony, also called spousal support, you’ve likely wondered how long it will last. Each circumstance has a different answer, but the duration of alimony payments is decided primarily by the duration of the marriage and the type of alimony. The purpose of alimony is to ensure the economic stability and well-being of parties in divorces that earn significantly less than their former spouse. With that principle in mind, it’s easier to understand the logic of the law in various situations.

Factoring In the Type of Alimony

California has long-term and short-term alimony, and there are two different approaches to long-term alimony based on whether the marriage is considered of long or short duration.

The truly short-term alimony in California is pendente lite spousal support. Pendente lite means “during/pending the litigation”. It exists to make the process of divorce fair for a party that may be unduly burdened financially during the proceedings, and, therefore, able to be exploited. Divorce can be a long process, and one party may be at a financial disadvantage or require child support during the process. Pendente lite addresses those needs and concerns. The amount given is calculated in a fairly straightforward manner in California. Courts can determine temporary spousal support by looking at a guideline calculator.

Long-term alimony, or just “spousal support”, is decided by the judge during the divorce proceedings. Unlike pedente lite, it continues after the divorce is final, and its calculation is not standard. The amount and duration are decided based on various factors set out in Family Code 4320.

Factoring In the Length of the Marriage 

Long-term alimony’s duration is mostly, but not entirely, dependent on the length of the marriage. A standard approach to whether or not a marriage was of long or short duration is whether it was longer or shorter than ten years. However, this is not a cut-and-dry calculation. The court may find reasons to consider twelve or thirteen-year marriages short and nine-year marriages long. For the most part, though, this is the standard number.

If the marriage was shorter than ten years, the judge will usually set the alimony to last for half the length of the marriage. The standard in Family Code 4320 is a “reasonable period of time” and sets half the length of a short-term marriage as reasonable. This is not set in stone, though. The law allows for other factors to be considered by the judge. These factors may increase or lengthen the duration.

In a marriage longer than ten years, the judge will not place an end date on alimony, but that doesn’t mean it will never end. In these situations, unless the parties agreed otherwise, it will remain until a “change in circumstances” warrants its alteration. 

Factoring In Changes In Circumstance

Alimony can be altered based on certain changes in circumstances for both the paying and receiving parties. Some of the most common circumstances are remarriage, cohabitation, change in income, retirement, increase in assets, disability, or whether the spouse was making any effort to support themselves. 

A support order is generally considered “non-modifiable”, but a motion to modify can be filed with the court based on the aforementioned circumstances or something like them. 

We’re Here to Answer Questions

Especially in cases of alimony, each situation warrants different durations and amounts, and the judge has room to consider any factors they deem pertinent. To understand how long and how much you may pay or receive in alimony, it is necessary to consult an experienced family law attorney. If you have questions about modifying alimony whether paying or on the received end, we can help. Reach out to us at 714.456.9118 or send us an email at info@voneschlaw.com

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