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How is “Short Term” Spousal Support Determined in a Divorce Case?

Spousal Support in General

When determining spousal support in a “short term” marriage, a marriage that lasted less than ten (10) years, the court will consider a number of factors under Family Code, section 4320. Such factors include, but are not limited to, standard of living, education/career/training, ability, need, obligations, assets, duration of marriage, dependent children, age, health, and hardship.

Duration of Marriage

Family Code, section 4330 states that the “Court may order a party to pay for the support of the other party an amount, for a period of time that the Court determines is just and reasonable.” Family Code, section 4320, subdivision (1), also provides that a reasonable period of time for a spouse to become self-supporting should be considered.

The general rule of thumb is that if a marriage is under ten (10) years, spousal support lasts for half of the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple is married for nine (9) years, the supported spouse may be entitled to support for a period of four and one half (4.5) years. While there is no bright line rule in short-term marriages as to the actual duration of spousal support, the spousal support order in such cases will have a “fixed termination date” based on “the needs of minor children or the employment circumstances of the supported spouse requiring spousal support until the supported spouse can readjust to single status.” Marriage of Prietsch & Calhoun, (1987) 190 Cal. App. 3d 645, 663.

Unlike short term marriages, spousal support orders in long term marriages, ten (10) years or longer, do not necessarily have a fixed termination date. Since a spousal support order in either short or long term marriages is fact specific, it would be wise to speak with an experienced family law attorney to assist you in obtaining the best outcome based on your specific circumstances.