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Why Does a Marriage of Long Duration Matter for California Spousal Support

When your marriage is ending, one of the most important issues that needs to be determined during the divorce process if whether alimony or spousal support will be paid. Spousal support is money paid by a higher earning spouse to a lower earning spouse so the lower earning spouse does not experience a dramatic decline in quality of living compared with the standard enjoyed during the course of the marriage. While traditionally spousal support was paid by husbands to wives, now either spouse could be ordered to pay. Why Does a Marriage of Long Duration Matter for California Spousal Support

A determination on how much spousal support is required, and how long spousal support lasts, can have a profound impact on the finances of both the paying spouse and the recipient spouse. It is very important to understand the rules for California spousal support, including special rules applicable to a marriage of long duration.

Brown & Charbonneau, LLP understands all of the family code provisions and the case law related to spousal support and long marriages. Our Irvine divorce attorneys can provide you with guidance and advice on the issue of spousal support and can help you to make a convincing argument to the court on your behalf regarding your opinion  of what is a fair amount of support.

Why Does a Marriage of Long Duration Matter to Spousal Support Determinations?

According to California Family Code Section 4330: “the court may order a party to pay for the support of the other party an amount, for a period of time, that the court determines is just and reasonable.”

The period of time that the court grants spousal support for is generally up to one half of the length of time the marriage has lasted. For a marriage that lasted five years, for example, the court may order the higher-earning spouse to pay spousal support for two-and-a-half years. The court, however, has discretion to order spousal support for a longer or a shorter period of time.

California Family Code Section 4335 makes clear that an order for spousal support will terminate at the end of the period that the court provided for in the original order. It will not be extended.

There is, however, an exception: the court may retain jurisdiction under Section 4336 of the California family code.

California Family Code Section 4336 is the family code statute that specifically deals with a marriage of long duration.  When the couples have had a marriage of long duration, the court retains jurisdiction indefinitely. A marriage of long duration, therefore, matters a great deal because the court has continued authority on the issue of spousal support after a marriage has come to an end. The court does not set spousal support to end at a certain date, as it can do with shorter marriages.

A marriage of long duration has been defined to include a marriage that has lasted for at least 10 years. As a result, the special rule related to marriages of long duration is also referred to as the 1o-year rule.

The Impact of the 10-Year Rule

Many people mistakenly believe that when a couple was in a marriage of long duration, the 10-year rule means that spousal support must be paid for life to the lower earning spouse.

This is sometimes the case. However, in 2005, in a case called In re Marriage of Schmir (2005) 134 CA4 432, the court made clear that the state’s public policy has progressed from a policy that “entitled some women to lifelong alimony as a condition of the marital contract of support to one that entitles either spouse to postdissolution support for only so long as is necessary to become self-supporting.”

Whether lifetime spousal support will be awarded after a marriage of long duration or not is going to depend upon different factors including earning potential and contributions made to the marriage. However, the fact is that the 10-year rule still matters and it still makes a big difference if your marriage is considered one of long duration because there is the possibility support will need to be paid for a long time, or even for life.

How Can an Irvine Spousal Support Lawyer Help When Your Marriage Ends?

Brown & Charbonneau, LLP provides representation to spouses seeking spousal support so they can maintain their financial security after a marriage ends. We have extensive experience representing clients after long marriages when the stakes are especially high. We also represent individuals who are concerned about the amount of alimony they will be ordered to pay.

In every case, when you trust our legal team to handle your divorce case, you will be represented by an Irvine spousal support lawyer with unparalleled experience and with intense dedication to achieving the best results possible for our clients. Give us a call at (866)237-8129 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help you make an argument for or against spousal support when your marriage comes to an end.