Spousal support, also known as alimony, is often a controversial topic. Many people in California believe that family law judges award alimony too often, especially maintenance without a set end date. Others say the level of spousal support being awarded in divorces is not high enough and does not give parties enough time to establish their financial independence.
There’s a common misconception out there about alimony that has to do with how long the spouses were married. Specifically, a lot of people think that if a couple was married at least ten years, a spouse who earns significantly less is much more likely to get a large alimony order. And if you were married nine years and six months, you’re out of luck.
Long-term vs. shorter marriages
This is somewhat true, but nothing is set in stone. Under the law, a ten-year marriage is considered a long-term or marriage of a long duration for purposes of deciding on spousal support. Someone who was married for at least a decade may be able to get longer-term alimony by going to court to request an extension after the original term has ended. This is something that someone who was awarded temporary alimony following a marriage of fewer than ten years cannot do. When their alimony ends, it’s over.
And the standard alimony award for “shorter” marriages is about half the time the marriage lasted. So someone who was married for about eight years and needs spousal support usually would receive it for around four years. However, the law states that judges have the discretion to order support for longer or less time, depending on the circumstances of the particular case. For example, the recipient spouse might have a disability that prevents them from working full-time.
Alimony to fit your lives
Nothing about alimony is predetermined. If you and your ex cannot agree on a spousal support arrangement you both can live with and alternative dispute resolution methods fail, you can go to court to present your case and let the judge decide.