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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Alimony considerations: standard of living and length of marriage

Alimony issues can become one of the most contentious issues in the divorce process, no matter how well you and your soon-to-be ex get along. Generally, alimony or 'spousal support' refers to the money a higher-earning spouse will pay to the lower-earning spouse as part of a couple's divorce agreement.

The purpose of spousal support is to make sure that the lesser-earning spouse in a marriage is not left high-and-dry once the divorce is finalized. However, that doesn't mean that the higher-earning spouse should have to pay an unfair amount just because he or she earned more than their ex. The court will weigh multiple factors when deciding how much the payee spouse should receive each month. Today, we take a closer look at two of the most significant factors the judge will likely consider when determining alimony.

First, the court will look at a couple's standard of living while they were married and the lesser-earning spouse's earning capacity. For example, if you were a stay-at-home parent and have not worked in 20 years, then you may lack the necessary education and skills required to be competitive in today's job market. The court may thus award spousal support to give you time and financial support as you work to further your education and acquire any necessary training to help you get a job.

Another significant factor is the length of the marriage, or the amount of time from the date of the marriage to the date of the separation. If a couple is unable to agree on the date of separation, the judge may have to step in and decide. If you and your spouse separated multiple times during the marriage, then the judge may choose to take those into account when determining the duration of your marriage.

In most cases, the length of your marriage will directly impact the duration of a spousal support order. According to California law, spousal support is intended to give the payee spouse a reasonable amount of time to do what they need to do to become financially self-sufficient. Generally, a reasonable amount of time will be one-half of the length of the marriage. However, the judge may decide to do something different depending on the specifics of the case at hand. In fact, when a couple has been married for 10 years or more, the judge may consider it a long-term marriage and not set an end date for spousal support. With so much at stake, regardless of which side you are on it may be worth consulting with a family law attorney who can help you develop a legal strategy that supports your best interests.

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