How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Spousal Support?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Spousal Support?

By Christine Funk, J.D.

When determining spousal support, sometimes referred to as alimony, courts consider several things. First, in their analysis, they consider the type of spousal support one may qualify for. Next, they consider a host of other factors, including, but not limited to the length of the marriage when determining whether someone qualifies for spousal support. Alimony is designed as a way of limiting unfair or inequitable consequences that occur when couples with disparate income divorce. Different types of alimony are designed to address these concerns.

Woman resting chin on hand

Types of Spousal Support

Of course, every state has its own set of rules they follow when determining whether someone qualifies for spousal support, and, if so, the type of spousal support one may qualify for. Not every state uses the same words to describe the same types of alimony, which can further confuse things. Generally speaking, there are four different types of alimony:

  • Permanent alimony
  • Durational alimony
  • Rehabilitative alimony
  • Bridge the gap alimony

Permanent alimony is, as the name suggests, designed to provide permanent spousal support. Typically, the obligation ends only upon the spouse's death or upon the payee's remarriage. Durational alimony is spousal support that is ordered for a certain length of time, such as five years, or until the last child finishes high school or turns 18.

Rehabilitative alimony, like durational alimony, is limited in time. However, it is also limited in scope. Rehabilitative alimony is specifically designed to provide the payee with the education, skills, and training necessary for them to work to support themselves in the future. Bridge the gap alimony is also for a short, finite amount of time. It is designed to help a person get on their feet after a divorce.

Things the Court Considers When Determining the Type of Spousal Support

Not every court orders spousal support in every case. When a court does award spousal support, they generally consider a series of factors, including:

  • Each spouse's age
  • Each spouse's physical condition
  • The financial condition of each spouse
  • The emotional condition of each spouse
  • How much time is necessary for a payee to obtain the education, skills, or training necessary to support themselves
  • The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the courts of the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse's contribution to the home, including unpaid contributions, such as being a homemaker
  • Whether either spouse sacrificed their own work or educational opportunities in order to put the other spouse through additional schooling or to support their career advancement
  • Any other factors the court deems appropriate

Some states, like Florida, specifically allow courts to consider one spouse's adulterous conduct when assessing whether to award alimony, and how much alimony to award. Florida is also one of the states where the statutes provide clear guidance regarding the type of alimony and the length of the marriage. For example, while a judge may award permanent spousal support following marriage that lasted at least 17 years, for a marriage of less than 7 years, permanent alimony is only appropriate in the most exceptional of circumstances. California, on the other hand, is one of the states that provides little guidance relating to the number of years married and the type of alimony to be awarded.

If you want to learn more about receiving spousal support, be sure to understand the applicable state rules before determining which type of spousal support is appropriate for you.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.