How Long Is Spousal Support in California?

If you’re facing a divorce case that may result in you paying spousal support, you likely want to understand what that will look like for you. There are a number of rules and circumstances regarding which spouse receives support, if any, and how payments are, as well as how long they continue.

Spousal Support in California

There are three types of spousal support in California divorce court, and each is based on the needs of one spouse for support and the other spouse’s ability to give that support. Therefore, the rules outlining each type of spousal support differ.

  1. Temporary spousal support. This is given to a spouse while the divorce proceedings are in progress, and it usually continues until the divorce case has been completed. Similar to long-term support, if one or both parties have a difference in circumstances, such as income, this order could be changed. However, the limitations on alimony in California law as it relates to domestic violence are still applied to temporary spousal support.
  2. Long-term spousal support. This is received by a supported spouse after the finalization of the divorce case. It’s sometimes referred to as rehabilitative alimony because of its function in helping the supported spouse maintain their quality of living until they can support themselves with further education, work experience, or specialized training. The length of time and the size of the payment are meant to be reasonable for the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient.In order to push toward that self-sufficiency, there could be a number of contingencies. These could include:
    • Certain conditions that could end long-term support, such as when training or education has been completed.
    • Evaluations to determine the spouse’s ability to receive that kind of income that would allow them to maintain their standard of living.
    • Scheduled decreases as time goes on, based on expectations of higher earnings by the supported spouse.
    • Reservation of jurisdiction is based on when the alimony is meant to end, meaning that if the supported spouse faces further circumstances that make them unable to become self-sufficient, the judge can make changes to the support.
  3. Alimony in gross. Instead of the monthly payment that makes up temporary or long-term alimony, this is a one-time payment. One circumstance that could lead to this is where the receiving spouse receives a small amount of community property and is reimbursed for the share they hold.

How Divorce Courts Determine the Duration of Spousal Support in California

The amount that one spouse pays to another relies largely on the income each spouse makes and if one spouse can give the other support so that both maintain their standard of living. When determining how long alimony is paid for long-term spousal support, the length of the marriage is the biggest factor. Marriages that last 10 years before separation are considered long-term marriages and are governed differently, but marriages less than 10 years are considered short-term. There is a fixed amount of spousal support duration in that case.

If a marriage lasts less than 10 years, the alimony that is paid will be for half the length of time as the marriage. Long-term marriages, on the other hand, will have a duration of spousal support for as long as necessary, assuming the supporting spouse can pay it.

Long-Term Marriages

There is no metric for long-term marriages because there is no way to accurately determine how long a supported spouse needs to maintain a sustainable income that allows them to be self-sufficient. However, that doesn’t mean that the court permanently favors the spouse receiving support. The supported spouse is still expected to put in good-faith effort into finding financial self-sufficiency. In addition, changes in the circumstances, lifestyle, or finances of either spouse could also lead to a filing to change or terminate long-term support.


Q: Is Spousal Support Forever in California?

A: Alimony isn’t permanent. Instead, it’s ordered as a way to give the supported spouse time to develop self-sufficiency while maintaining the quality of life they were used to. Though long-term alimony is sometimes referred to as permanent alimony, it’s not, in fact, permanent. Not only does the supported spouse have to put effort toward being self-sufficient, a change in circumstances, such as a change in income for either spouse, could lead to an alteration in the spousal support.

Q: When Can Spousal Support Be Terminated in California?

A: Changes in circumstance for either the supported or supporting spouse can lead to changes or termination of spousal support. Some changes could be:

  • The supporting spouse has had a decrease in income that was outside of their control, such as a medical issue, layoff, or retirement after 65.
  • The supported spouse sees income increase, or a similar financial or lifestyle change.
  • The supported spouse has not shown an effort to become self-sufficient.
  • The supported spouse lives with a romantic partner.

Q: How Long Is Spousal Support in California for Marriage?

A: This depends on the length of the marriage, the length of separation prior to divorce, and each party’s individual income and health. The exact duration will depend on those factors. Marriages lasting 10 years or less will have a duration of up to half the length of the marriage. Marriages longer than 10 years don’t have a duration.

Q: What Is the Average Spousal Support in California?

A: Guidelines for temporary spousal support state that the supporting spouse will pay 40% of their net monthly income, reduced by half the supported spouse’s net monthly income. Long-term support varies based on a wide variety of factors, including child care, income, duration of the marriage, age and health of both parties, the standard of living of each spouse, and other factors.

Ensure You Give or Receive the Deserved Alimony

An experienced attorney will be able to advocate for your rights in court and ensure that if you need support, you receive it. We can also ensure that if you are asked to give support, the amount is fair for you and your ex-spouse and that you are not taken advantage of during the process. Contact the office of Paula D. Kleinman for experienced legal representation.

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