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

By Heather Frances J.D.

Spousal support, or alimony, refers to the payments made to one spouse by the other during a separation of after a divorce. It is based either on an agreement between the couple or by a determination of the court. The purpose of spousal support is to limit any unfair economic effects of the divorce to the receiving spouse who is typically a non-wage earner or the lower-wage earner of the two. For example, a spouse who left the workforce to raise the couple's children might need money to get job training that will help her support herself after the divorce. While the length of the marriage is a factor that courts consider before awarding spousal support, it is usually not the only consideration.

State Laws Vary

State courts set spousal support in accordance with state laws and guidelines. State laws can vary, but they typically describe a series of factors judges should consider before awarding alimony. For example, California law requires that judges consider 14 factors, including anything the judge determines is just and equitable under the circumstances. State laws may also set restrictions on the types of alimony courts can award, such as permitting alimony for job training purposes but limiting alimony for other purposes. Thus, it is important for spouses to research their own state's laws on spousal support.

Longer Marriages Encourage Support

Typically, the duration of a couple's marriage is one of the many factors judges must consider when awarding spousal support of any type. Generally, judges have discretion when awarding support, meaning they are not required to award support in any case. In some states, like Florida, judges have general guidelines for support awards that are based on the length of the marriage. In Florida, courts are likely to award permanent alimony payments only for long-term marriages -- those lasting longer than 17 years. Shorter-term marriages may qualify for other types of alimony depending on the circumstances.

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

Support Comes in Different Forms

States can permit several types of support -- and the type of support they award may depend in part on the length of the marriage. For example, Florida judges can award permanent alimony for the rest of the recipient's lifetime, durational alimony for a certain set period of time, bridge-the-gap alimony to get a recipient spouse back on her feet after the divorce, or rehabilitative alimony to help a recipient spouse obtain job training. Courts are more likely to award rehabilitative or bridge-the-gap alimony in short-term marriages of less than seven years, while they are unlikely to award durational alimony unless the marriage lasted at least seven years.

Other Factors Considered

Since the duration of the marriage is only one factor the court must consider, judges look at the totality of the circumstances before making a support decision. These other factors may include the requesting spouse's education and training, each spouse's earning capacity, the separate property of each spouse, the standard of living established during the marriage, the ages and health of both spouses and the balance of hardships caused by the divorce.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Calculate Alimony in New Hampshire


Related articles

Is it True a Husband Always Has to Pay Alimony When They Get Divorced?

When couples divorce, one or both spouses may ask the court to award alimony, also known as spousal support and maintenance. The court looks at a variety of factors when determining whether alimony should be granted, in what amount and how long it should last. However, courts are prohibited from awarding alimony based on gender or excluding a spouse from receiving it for the same reason.

Divorce Laws on Alimony in the State of Maine

If your marriage ends, you may ask the court for alimony, or spousal support, as part of your Maine divorce decree, but alimony is not automatically awarded. Unlike child support, there is no calculation method for alimony. So, your divorce judge has wide discretion when deciding whether to award alimony and, if so, how much to award.

What Is Difference Between Nominal Alimony & Rehabilitative Alimony?

Alimony is an award of spousal support after a divorce or legal separation. The amount of alimony is determined by the court or by a settlement agreement between the parties, and depends on a variety of factors such as length of marriage, financial status of each party and state alimony guidelines. Some states, such as Florida and Massachusetts, offer nominal alimony awards to preserve a person's right to seek future alimony.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Alimony Laws in Tennessee

Alimony is a monetary award paid to the financially weaker spouse after a divorce. Tennessee courts can award one of ...

Ohio Laws on Spousal Support in a Marriage Dissolution

When married couples make the difficult decision to get divorced, the issue of spousal support can become quite ...

How to Determine Alimony in SC

To prepare for a divorce, it is important for both parties to have an understanding of the factors a court will ...

Does a Spouse Receive Alimony When Divorced in Ohio?

Spouses can receive alimony during or after a divorce in Ohio, but it’s not an automatic right. Judges make alimony ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED