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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

How does the duration of the marriage impact alimony?

A key concern for couples that are getting a divorce in California is which spouse will pay spousal support and which will receive it. There are subsets to this, including how long it will need to be paid. For some, it is a financial necessity to receive payments as they try to get on their feet after the divorce. For the paying spouse, it is major consideration as they move on with their lives. Income, children and more will be part of the process in determining how much alimony will be paid. Also important is the duration of the marriage.

When a judge determines how much alimony will be paid and received, the length of the marriage is an important factor. The objective of alimony is not long-term support, but rather to give the receiving former spouse sufficient time to become self-supportive. According to the law, it is deemed a "reasonable" amount of time and that is defined as half the amount of time the couple was married. However, the judge is also granted discretion to come to a different determination. This means the case hinges on the individual circumstances of the parties.

The judge's power to decide is one of the main factors the parties should think about as a case moves forward. If they are considering a settlement, this is also key. In general, a long-term marriage would be one that lasted a decade or more. With this length of marriage, the judge might not have a specified end date when the alimony will stop.

It is vital to remember that the date in which the couple separated should be noted. The sides will often disagree on the specific date at which they separated, so the judge will be tasked to specifying a date to use when deciding on alimony. The judge will also have the right to take into consideration intermittent separations they had before finally parting ways permanently.

From the perspective of the spouse who is set to receive alimony and the spouse who will be paying it, knowing how the length of the marriage will be factored in by the judge is essential. Legal protection is a critical aspect of any divorce case and to avoid problems and disputes with any part of the case, a law firm that understands the legal obligation for alimony and how the length of marriage will impact it is a necessity.

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