The Short Term Marriage (less than 10 years)

If you have a marriage that is less than 10 years and assuming that your marriage of less than 10 years is not treated as a long-term marriage, then the most common question is “how long will the spousal support last?” Whether you are the spouse who is paying spousal support or receiving it, you must be vigilant in ensuring that your spousal support order is not vague and is consistent with California law.

While the duration of time could vary depending on the facts of the case, the most common timeframe for spousal support on a short-term marriage is one-half the duration of the marriage. For example, if the marriage is six years between the date of marriage and date of separation, that spousal support award will be approximately 3 years. The California legislature has determined that half the duration of the marriage is a fair and reasonable time for the spouse who receives spousal support to maintain the marital lifestyle until he or she is able to fend for him or herself and become self-supporting.

However, a common misconception is that the half the duration of the marriage is an automatic rule. It isn’t. Every spouse in every family law case absent a serious injury or disability has an obligation to become employed and self-supporting. This rule is so common that it is actually written on the mandatory judgment form called the FL–180. While there are arguments that such a rule is not appropriate in a long-term marriage and that issue has been the subject of dispute among lawyers and judges, in a short-term marriage the spouse who is paying spousal support should not blindly pay it for half the duration of the marriage if his or her spouse is not making reasonable and good faith efforts to become self-supporting. The spouse paying spousal support should instead determine, with our help, whether it makes sense to seek a termination or downward modification of support.

Similarly, the spouse who is receiving spousal support should not simply assume that he or she can become self-supporting and if there are factors that the court must take into consideration such as a lack of earnings capacity, a disability or injury that will keep that spouse from becoming self-supporting, these issues must be brought to the court’s attention immediately so that the spousal support does not cut off at the halfway duration of the marriage and leave the spouse that receives spousal support without the ability to support him or herself.

While parties are always free to come to a contrary agreement, most spousal support orders for a short-term marriage have a specific cutoff date at the halfway duration of the marriage. The language that is used in that order is critical and must be consistent with the party’s intentions if the parties want to avoid future legal disputes and disagreements.

Farzad Family Law are experienced and knowledgeable in the litigation of simple and complex spousal support matters in short-term and long-term marriages. Put our knowledge and experience to work for you. Call or e-mail us and we will find solutions together.

Warmest Regards,

B. Robert Farzad
Orange County Divorce & Family Law Attorneys
1851 E. 1st Street, Suite 1150
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Telephone: (714) 937-1193
Facsimile: (714) 937-1192

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