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How Long Does Permanent Spousal Support Last in California?

Posted on in Spousal Support

Los Gatos spousal support lawyerWhen a couple gets divorced, the higher-earning spouse may be required to pay spousal support to a non-working or lower-paid spouse for some period of time after the divorce. This is called “permanent” spousal support, as opposed to the “temporary” spousal support that may be paid while a divorce is pending. 

However, do not let the term “permanent” confuse you. So-called “permanent” spousal support will not necessarily be for the rest of your life. Its duration will depend on several factors, including the length of the marriage and the ability of the supported party to become self-supporting. In fact, Section 4320 of the California Family Code states that a supported spouse is expected to become self-supporting “within a reasonable period of time.” 

Length of Marriage Affects Duration of California Spousal Support 

The duration of the marriage is a major factor in determining the duration of spousal support. If a couple has been married for less than 10 years, a “reasonable period of time” is generally defined as one-half the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for six years, the court would typically award spousal support for no longer than three years. However, the court has total discretion to order support for a longer or shorter period of time based on the totality of the couple’s circumstances.

If a couple has been married for 10 years or more, this is considered a marriage of “long duration.” Historically, this could have meant that one spouse could be paying spousal support to the other until the recipient remarried or died. Today, the California courts typically put a time limit on spousal support, based on a determination of how long it will take a supported spouse to transition from married life to single life.

Other Factors Affecting the Duration of California Spousal Support

In determining an appropriate duration for support, the court may consider factors such as:

  • The supported party’s existing job skills and the job market for those skills. 
  • The length of time necessary for a supported party to obtain appropriate training that would make them employable, such as a six-month training course or a two-year program.
  • The extent to which one spouse worked and supported the family while the other spouse went to school.
  • The age and health of the spouses.
  • The balance of hardship to each party.

With an eye toward helping a supported spouse become self-supporting, the court may order the supported party to meet with a vocational training counselor who will evaluate the party’s ability to obtain employment. The court may also advise the supported party to make reasonable efforts to find work.

Factors Affecting Termination or Reduction of Spousal Support

Spousal support will generally be terminated upon the remarriage or death of the supported spouse. The court may reduce or terminate spousal support if the supported spouse begins cohabiting with a nonmarital partner. The paying spouse may petition the court for a reduction of support if, for example, they experience a decline in their financial circumstances or they become aware that the supported party’s income has risen substantially.

Consult a Los Gatos, CA Divorce and Spousal Support Lawyer

If you are thinking about divorce and fear that spousal support could be a major point of contention, it can be helpful to consult an attorney to discuss your options. A skilled Los Gatos spousal support attorney can help you identify options to meet your family’s financial needs. For a free consultation, call the Law Offices of Benita Ventresca at 408-395-8822.


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Los Gatos, CA 95030

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