Spousal Support can be one of the most important issues for a party going through a divorce in California. A party to a case who receives an order for Spousal Support can rely on this award to support them until that party can become financially self-supporting. A spouse who has been ordered to pay support will be concerned about how long the support order will remain in effect.

The duration of a Spousal Support order under California Law is first based on the length of time the parties were married. A marriage of less than ten years is considered a short term marriage. A marriage of longer than ten years is legally considered a long term marriage. The difference means that a Court will always have to at least keep open the issue, or jurisdiction about Spousal Support, even if no support order is made.

The first way that a Spousal Support order will come to an end is if the person receiving support remarries. The remarriage automatically terminates the spousal support.

Many cases will have spousal support ordered for a certain period of time. The parties may agree that support will be paid for only so long, and after that the order will come to an end. This situation usually occurs where the parties have been married for less than ten years. There is a general presumption that in these cases, support should be paid for one half of the length of marriage. For example, if the parties were married for six years, one spouse may agree to pay support to the other spouse for three years. The agreements are usually written with a specific “termination date” in the future where the obligation to pay support will automatically come to an end.

The situation is more difficult where the parties were married for longer than ten years. The Judge may make the initial support order for a specific amount of money to be paid monthly. This order is usually open-ended. It can be quite common for Spousal Support orders made after a lengthy marriage to go on for decades, even for the rest of the receiving spouses' life.

The person who receives support will often be given an official warning by the Judge, know as a GAVRON warning. This will require the supported spouse to make their best effort to become self-supporting in a reasonable period of time. If that person does not make an effort to become employed, the Court can reduce or terminate the Spousal Support order if the Judge believes that that spouse is not making a serious effort.

Dealing with Spousal Support matters can often be quite complicated. Parties should consider consulting with an experienced Family Law Attorney in order to determine the proper course of action.