California Spousal Support Duration 

Spousal support disputes often arise in divorces of long-term marriages. Most people believe that if they are married for more than ten years, they will receive spousal support for the rest of their lives. This common belief is not true. Although the length of marriage has a significant impact on the amount and duration of spousal support a spouse may receive, California family law does not guarantee the receipt of  support for life.

Spousal Support Duration Overview

California family law does however state that for long term marriages, the court will maintain jurisdiction over the issue of support indefinitely.

Except on written agreement of the parties to the contrary or a court order terminating spousal support, the court retains jurisdiction indefinitely in a proceeding for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties where the marriage is of long duration. See California Family Law Code Chapter 3, Section 4336 (a).

Support should last less than one-half the length of a short-term marriage (marriage less than ten years).

Tara was married to Bill for 25 years. Upon divorce, Tara was ordered to pay Bill spousal support for ten years. After the ten years, support was to be reduced to zero. The court maintained jurisdiction over the issue of support. Three months after support ended, Bill was in a terrible ski accident. He was hospitalized for six months due to a broken back and leg and subsequently received hefty medical bills. Bill filed a motion in court requesting for support to be reinstated as a result of being unemployed because of the accident and not having insurance to cover his medical bills.  The court has authority to order Tara to resume spousal support payments to Bill because of his medical expenses arising from the accident.

Terry was married to Cassidy for 30 years. Cassidy worked part-time throughout their marriage while caring for their children. Upon divorce, Terry agreed to provide spousal support to Cassidy for twenty years. The parties also agreed that the court would not retain jurisdiction over the issue of support once the twenty years of support payments ended. The parties entered a written agreement along with the final judgment. Cassidy suffered major financial setbacks following her divorce. Upon the conclusion of spousal support payments, she filed for bankruptcy due to hefty medical bills and an unsuccessful business venture. Cassidy filed a motion in court to resume support payments. The court denied Cassidy’s motion because the parties had a written agreement for the court to no longer have authority over the issue of support after the twenty years of payments.

Peter and Carol were married for 9 years. Upon divorcing, Peter was ordered to pay Carol spousal support for three years. After the three years, spousal support was to be reduced to zero and the court’s jurisdiction over support was to be terminated. Six months after spousal support ended, Carol suffered a major financial setback which left her unemployed. Carol filed a motion to resume support payments. The court denied the motion because it no longer had the power to order ongoing support.

No set standard defines the duration of support. However, the court considers several factors when granting support. This includes, but is not limited to, the duration of the marriage, the financial needs of the spouses based on the marital standard of living, and the age and health of the parties.

Contact San Diego Esquire for more information about how to a spousal support order.

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About the Author:

Kymeshia Morris Esq., founder of San Diego Esquire has practiced law in California since 2012. During her career as a lawyer, she has co-authored legal publications and self-help articles. Kymeshia is dedicated to providing affordable legal services to California businesses and individuals.

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