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How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

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In California, alimony is referred to as “spousal support.” Spousal support is money that the higher-earning spouse pays to the lower-earning spouse each month to help them get on their feet.

The higher-earning spouse (payor spouse) can begin paying spousal support once the couple separates with the plan to divorce. In a California divorce case, a spouse can request temporary or long-term support, or both.

What is temporary support? It is a temporary form of spousal support that is paid by the spouse who earns more money to the lower-earning spouse while the divorce is still pending.

Temporary support is often awarded to a stay-at-home parent or homemaker or to a spouse who earns significantly less than the other.

For a judge to order temporary support, first there has to be a case filed with the court. It can be an annulment, a legal separation, a domestic violence restraining order, or a divorce case.

If you earn less than your spouse and you separate, you can ask the court to order temporary spousal support, especially if you need the money to pay for your basic expenses. Temporary spousal support, however, ends once the divorce is finalized, but that does not necessarily mean the payments will stop.

As a general rule, temporary support ends once the divorce becomes final, but it can be made into long-term support as a part of the final divorce judgement. When this happens, it is referred to as permanent or long-term support.

Duration of Permanent Spousal Support

You and your spouse can reach an agreement over the amount and duration of the spousal support payments. If you can reach a mutually satisfactory arrangement about support, you can sign a written agreement and you will not need to have a judge decide for you.

On the other hand, if one of you wants spousal support and you cannot reach an agreement, the judge will have to decide for you.

How long spousal support does last? The duration largely depends on the length of your marriage. The whole purpose of spousal support is to help a spouse become financially independent within a reasonable time.

Generally, a “reasonable length of time” is one-half the length of the marriage, however, the judge has the authority to award support for a different length of time based on the circumstances of the case. So, if you were married for six years, it is likely that if support is awarded, it will be for three years.

If a marriage lasted 10 years or longer, it is considered a “long-term” marriage. In that case, the judge may not establish an end date for the spousal support payments. Usually, spousal support ends when the court order says it does, or when the receiving spouse remarries.

If you have further questions about spousal support, contact the Los Angeles divorce attorneys at Claery & Hammond, LLPfor a free consultation.


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