The Mythical 10-Year Rule of Divorce

Many Californians may be under the impression that if a marriage passes the 10-year mark, the higher-earning spouse becomes obligated to pay spousal support to the lower-earning spouse for the rest of their life. That is not the case, but there are some clear advantages to staying married for 10 years prior to divorce.

California family law statutes specify how the amount and duration of spousal support should be determined. The rule of thumb for duration of spousal support is one-half the length of the failed marriage. Additionally, the amount of support is determined by the financial condition, earning potential, age, health and household expenses of each spouse. In some cases, a judge might consider other factors, including the emotional impact of one spouse living with domestic violence, in setting the amount of support.

If you are dissolving a marriage that has survived past the magic 10-year mark, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • A marriage of 10 years or more is considered to be of long duration. This means unless the parties agree otherwise, the court retains jurisdiction over the terms forever. For example, if a judge initially orders one spouse to pay spousal support and 15 years later that spouse suffers a financial downturn, a judge can reevaluate the terms of the spousal support and order the supporting spouse to pay a higher amount.
  • If you waive support, the Court cannot revisit it at a later date.
  • The Social Security Administration also recognizes 10 years as a marriage of long duration. This means you might be eligible to receive an amount commensurate with your ex-spouse's social security upon retirement, as long as you have not remarried.
  • If your ex-spouse was in the military, the 10-year mark allows you to receive military retirement pay directly from the government, rather than relying on your former spouse to pay you.
  • The court retains the discretion to also define a marriage lasting less than 10 years as a marriage of long duration.

If you are divorcing in California and have questions about how the duration of your marriage might affect your right to spousal support, speak with a divorce attorney. Call the Law Office of Steven M. Bishop in San Diego at 619-299-9780 or contact us online.

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