California Divorce Laws and the 10 Year Rule

By Teo Spengler

You don't need to have celebrated your silver wedding anniversary to have a lengthy marriage in the eyes of California courts. One decade does it, in terms of altering your rights to alimony in a divorce. California's famous 10-year rule, however, is widely misquoted and misinterpreted. Before hanging onto a bad marriage for a few more years to clinch the supposed alimony benefits of a marriage of long duration, it pays to understand the actual meaning of this concept within the context of California law.

Spousal Support

California law uses the term "spousal support," also known as alimony, to describe payments that one divorcing spouse is ordered to pay the other to maintain the lesser-earning spouse at the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. In part, spousal support is intended to protect an untrained spouse who has been out of the workforce for a significant time, so much so that she cannot readily find lucrative employment. Generally, each spouse is expected to support himself or herself at a point in the future and spousal support is only to tide over the lesser-earning spouse until that point.

Marriage of Long Duration

Under California Family Code Section 4336, a divorce court does not automatically lose jurisdiction after dissolving a marriage of long duration; therefore, it may continue to amend its orders over time. Absent evidence to the contrary, the court must presume that a marriage of 10 years or more is a marriage of long duration; it may also find that a marriage of less than 10 years qualifies as a marriage of long duration. Such a designation will affect any award of spousal support.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Factors

California courts are required by law to consider several factors set out in Family Code Section 4320 when awarding spousal support. Many of the factors involve the ages, assets, needs, earnings and employment opportunities of the respective spouses. Duration of the marriage is included in the list of factors to be considered. The goal is for the supported spouse to be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in marriages of a long duration, this time period is generally one-half the length of the marriage; however, the court can assign spousal support for a longer or shorter period of time.

Impact of Long Duration

When the court is determining how long spousal support payments should last, it must apply a different standard to marriages of long duration. It cannot presume that one-half the length of the marriage is a reasonable period of time for spousal support. The court may order a lesser or greater period of support after evaluating the factors set forth in the Family Code and considering the circumstances of the parties; it may even decide that the lesser-earning spouse in a marriage of long duration will never be able to support himself or herself and requires support for life. Lifetime alimony is not, however, either required or automatic for long duration marriages.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
Alimony Laws in Tennessee

References

Resources

Related articles

How Are Alimony Payments Determined?

Alimony is never a sure thing in a divorce. In most states, it comes down to the discretion of a judge. Congress has passed the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act to address alimony, but it includes suggestions for awarding it, not hard and fast laws. One common guideline is the length of a marriage. Judges most commonly award alimony after long-term marriages and almost never after marriages of just a few years’ duration.

New York Divorce Laws on Property Distribution With the Length of Marriage

New York is an equitable distribution state so there are no hard-and-fast rules dictating how courts will distribute property in a divorce. Unlike in community property states where courts are obligated to split marital assets 50/50 between spouses, equitable distribution states give judges discretion to rule in a way they think is fair. Article 13, Section 236 of the Consolidated Laws of New York lists 13 separate factors judges can consider when dividing property, but these factors are only statutory guidelines. They're not rules.

Alimony Laws in Kansas

Alimony, also called spousal support, may be awarded during a divorce proceeding in Kansas. Alimony is paid by one spouse to the other when the receiving spouse has neither a sufficient income nor sufficient assets to be self-supporting when the marriage ends. The Kansas Revised Statutes set forth the types of alimony available, duration of payments and when alimony can be modified or terminated.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

How is Alimony Calculated in a New York Divorce?

Marriage is as much about money as it is about love. When two people depend on each other financially, especially over ...

Spousal Support & Divorce Law: Displaced Homemakers Rights

The most vulnerable of divorcing spouses are those who have devoted their lives to their home and children while their ...

Spousal Support Guidelines in Virginia

Virginia’s alimony statutes were relatively stagnant until 1998 when the legislature finally took steps to bring its ...

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

Spousal support, or alimony, refers to the payments made to one spouse by the other during a separation of after a ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED