In marriages where spouses do not earn the same amount of money, the lesser earning spouse may qualify for spousal support (also known as alimony or spousal maintenance). You may qualify for spousal support if you do not have the financial means to maintain the standard of living you enjoyed while married during or after your divorce.
Spousal support is an especially important issue for stay-at-home parents or full-time homemakers, who may have turned down career opportunities for the sake of the marriage.
How Many Years Do You Have to Be Married to Get Spousal Support in California?
Spousal support is a possibility in every California divorce, regardless of the duration of the marriage. According to the California Courts, there are 2 types of spousal support: temporary spousal support paid before your divorce is final, and long-term spousal support paid at the end of the case.
If you were married for a short time, you may not qualify for long-term spousal support, but every lesser earning spouse can qualify for temporary spousal support. In fact, you can ask for temporary support as soon as you file your case.
The longer you have been married, the more spousal support you can expect. California Courts use the length of the marriage (among other factors) to determine how much spousal support a lesser earning spouse is entitled to.
Generally, lesser earning spouses qualify for spousal support for a period equaling half the duration of their marriage. For example, if you were married for 6 years, you may qualify for 3 years of long-term spousal support.
The Ten-Year Rule for Spousal Support
Any marriage that has lasted 10 years or longer is considered a long-term marriage. At the 10-year mark, the rules for spousal support change slightly. Instead of limiting spousal support to 5 years (or half the marriage), the lesser earning spouse will continue to qualify for support as long as they need it and the other spouse can pay.
Sometimes, California Courts issue permanent support orders – usually for older stay-at-home parents coming out of long-term marriages or lesser earning spouses who cannot work due to age or illness.
How Do California Courts Determine Spousal Support?
The family law court will determine spousal support based on the details of your marriage, as well as your and your spouse’s financial situation. California courts base awards on the marital standard of living and each spouse’s ability to obtain such a standard without the other.
You will only qualify for spousal support if you need the support, and your spouse can provide it.
Factors the court considers include:
- Each spouse’s income and earning capacity
- How each spouse supported one another during the marriage (e.g., the lesser earning spouse contributed to the other’s education or career)
- Each spouse’s needs
- Each spouse’s debts and assets
- Each spouse’s age and health
- The length of the marriage
- Which spouse is the primary caretaker for the couple’s minor children
- Allegations of domestic violence
- And more
Ultimately, the court can consider any factor it deems relevant. Often, courts will award spousal support in cases of infidelity if the unfaithful spouse used marital assets to purchase gifts, meals, hotel rooms, and vacations.
How Can I Get the Spousal Support I Deserve?
If you believe you qualify for spousal support, discuss your situation with an attorney as soon as possible. You should not have to struggle to survive after a divorce if you spent your marriage supporting your spouse, caring for your children, and building a home. TRABOLSI | LEVY | GABBARD LLP can help make sure you do not have to.
Our expert attorneys have over a century of collective experience and went through rigorous, voluntary examinations to become Board Certified Family Law specialists. With us, clients like you always come first, and our expertise becomes your protection.
Let us work toward your peace of mind – call us at (310) 455-8364 or contact us online to get started today.