How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in the State of California?

Hossein Berenji, Apr 01, 2024

Spouses may receive or be ordered to pay alimony when they separate or divorce in California. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is financial assistance paid by one spouse to the other. California does not set a specific time for a person to be married to get alimony. However, the length of your marriage could impact the duration of alimony payments in California.

How Long Will I Pay or Receive Alimony in California?

California judges apply a “ten-year rule” when deciding alimony matters during a divorce. Marriages that last less than ten years are considered short-term marriages. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, alimony payments for short-term marriages do not exceed one-half of the duration of the marriage.

Therefore, if you were married for five years, the judge will likely terminate alimony after 2.5 years. However, judges consider other factors in addition to the length of the marriage. Therefore, alimony for short-term marriages could last shorter or longer than half the time of the marriage.

Marriages lasting longer than ten years are considered long-term marriages. Judges may grant permanent alimony under these circumstances. The facts of the case determine what type of alimony the judge orders and the duration of the support payments.

What Factors Do Judges Consider When Awarding Alimony in California?

California Family Code §4320 lists several factors judges must consider when awarding spousal support in California.

Those factors include:

  • The ability of the spouses to maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage
  • A spouse’s special needs
  • The ages and health conditions of each spouse
  • Which spouse has primary custody of their minor children
  • The marital property that is subject to community property division
  • A spouse’s separate resources, assets, and debts
  • The federal and state tax implications for each spouse
  • A spouse’s earning capacity, including their experience and marketable skills
  • Whether a spouse is likely to obtain a job without additional training and/or education
  • A spouse’s contributions to the household, including if they gave up a career to care for the children and maintain a home
  • The time and expense it would take for a spouse to obtain the required skills, education, and/or training to enter the job market
  • A spouse’s contributions to the education, career, and professional growth of the other spouse

Judges can consider any factor they deem relevant to deciding whether to grant alimony. An experienced lawyer can help you present a solid case supporting your position regarding spousal support.

How Do Marital Agreements Impact Spousal Support in California?

Many couples in California have prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. Marital agreements often set the terms for alimony should the couple separate or divorce. Judges typically honor prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, provided they were legally executed.

However, a spouse may contest a marital agreement. Judges may void an agreement or its terms if they find a spouse was forced to sign it. Using fraud and misrepresentation to trick a spouse into signing could also void the agreement.

If a judge voids a marital contract or select terms, the couple could negotiate an agreement regarding alimony payments. However, the judge will base decisions on the above factors if the spouses dispute alimony.

Can I Modify Alimony Payments in California After the Court Issues an Order?

Alimony continues until a court issues an order modifying or terminating support. Spousal support generally ends when the spouse receiving the payments remarries or the duration of alimony expires.

However, judges can modify the terms of alimony based on a change in circumstances. The spouse petitioning the court for a modification has the burden of proving that the change in circumstances is substantial enough to justify modifying alimony payments.

Reasons a judge might modify alimony in Los Angeles include:

  • Unintentional unemployment
  • A permanent decrease in income
  • The spouse receiving alimony fails to make a good-faith effort to become self-supporting
  • An injury or illness requires a lengthy recovery period
  • The spouse receiving alimony no longer needs financial support
  • A spouse becomes permanently disabled
  • The spouse receiving alimony is residing with a romantic partner
  • The person paying support retires

If you believe circumstances have changed that warrant a modification of alimony, talk with an attorney. Changes in alimony are not retroactive, so contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Do You Need Advice About Alimony Payments in California?

Spousal support disputes can complicate a divorce in California. If you need help with an alimony matter, contact a Los Angeles divorce lawyer.

Contact a Beverly Hills Family Law Lawyer Today

If you’re going through a divorce, you need a strong team on your side fighting for your rights. Call Berenji & Associates today to know how we can assist you.

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