When Does Spousal Support End?

23 Oct When Does Spousal Support End?

Unless a couple end their relationship in total harmony and agreement over financial affairs, it is likely that there will be a certain amount of acrimony. That’s where family law attorneys come in to help a couple go through divorce and prepare for a life apart. In many cases, although not all, major disagreements often occur, typically over money, the home or children, so the final decision may be made by the Family Court.

One contentious issue after divorce is the amount of alimony, more correctly called spousal support in California. The length of time that spousal support is enforced on one of the ex partners and the amount that must be paid usually depends on the court’s decision after taking many factors into consideration.

Whoever has to pay spousal support is understandably unlikely to enjoy the experience, although there are many good reasons why support payments after separation are often enforced. There are always cases where the support payer knows that his or her ex partner could afford to live quite comfortably without regular payments and resents having to continue to pay. There are also cases where an ex partner really needs the amount of spousal support decided on because of the lack of ability to procure an income in any other way, often because that person has never been able to develop an independent financial life outside of the marriage.

Spousal support termination is generally divided into two rather broad categories. For those couples who had a ‘short-term’ marriage, arbitrarily defined as 10 years or less, the length of spousal support is pegged approximately at half the length of the marriage. This is a ball park figure as the actual determination of termination of spousal support is still up to the court. So, for example, if you and your ex-spouse were married for 6 years, you (assuming that you are the support person) may have to maintain payments for three years, i.e. half the 6 year marriage.

The situation gets a bit more complicated with marriages that have lasted more than 10 years. These are dubbed ‘long-term’ marriages and there is no fixed time at which spousal support is agreed to terminate. However, in the last two decades, the attitude towards termination of spousal support in California has changed somewhat and it is no longer expected that the support partner continues to pay spousal support for ever.

Many factors will be taken into consideration to decide if termination will be permitted. Generally speaking, the shorter the ‘long-term’ marriage, the more likely that the half way point will be used as a termination guide line, although there is no guarantee that this will be agreed by the court.

What determines the cessation of spousal support in long term marriages?

The Family Court uses several criteria to decide whether spousal support could be terminated after the end of a long-term marriage. These criteria relate to your circumstances changing, the support payer, or the receiver of spousal support’s circumstances changing.

Here are some examples of reasons why a court might look favorably on terminating spousal support:

Changes in your ex spouse’s circumstances

  • Your spouse earns more than when married.
  • Your spouse now cohabits with someone else.
  • Your spouse now has less living expenses than immediately after divorce.
  • Your spouse has gained qualifications or professional accreditation which will enable him or her to earn more money.
  • Your spouse has come into a substantial inheritance.
  • Your spouse no longer needs to look after dependent children or relatives.

Changes in your own circumstances

  • You are now unemployed or underemployed compared to what you were when married.
  • You are earning significantly less money.
  • You have increased living expenses.
  • You have debts that have to be paid back.

Talk to a family law attorney if you want to know about ending spousal support

If you are frustrated about the amount of spousal support you have been paying or are wondering whether you have grounds to have spousal support reduced or terminated, the best advice is to discuss your circumstances with a family law attorney who is experienced with spousal support. Make an appointment with the Law Office of Damian Nolan in Orange County at 562-634-1115.

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