How can I end spousal support? And can I end it forever? There is a court order against you for spousal support. That court order is responsible for a significant portion of your earnings going to your ex-spouse. Worse, this has continued for years and there does not appear any end in sight.
Husbands and wives who have spousal support orders against them are often resentful of the court ordered obligation. That resentment is normal. Who wants a large chunk of their paycheck going the other way? However, looking at the situation objectively, spousal support serves legitimate purposes. It would be unreasonable for a higher earning spouse to leave a marriage and leave his or her spouse financially destitute, just because his or her spouse earns far less or nothing at all. Husbands and wives make decisions every day regarding division of responsibility within the marriage. Some spouses say home or work part-time. Other spouses are the “breadwinners” whose primary responsibility is to provide financial support for the family.
The other extreme is also true. Spousal support orders can be unreasonable and even draconian. They can reward spouses who refuse to work even though they have the ability, capacity and opportunity to do so. Whether the other spouse is willfully unemployed, underemployed or lying about his or her income, there are plenty of good reasons to end spousal support.
We will go through some of them now.
How can I end spousal support in a short-term marriage?
Short-term marriage is a marriage under a ten-year duration, as measured from the date of marriage to the date of separation. While the line between a short-term marriage and a long-term marriage is not always clear and the ten-year mark is not a set and inflexible rule, the general rule is spousal support should last approximately one half of the marriage’s duration. For example, in a six-year marriage, spousal support should last no more than three years. This one-half rule is also not a strict rule but rather a general principle, subject to change depending on a divorce’s facts.
If you are paying spousal support on a short-term marriage, your order should have a specific termination date for spousal support. If it does not, you should seek a court order to end spousal support near the marriage’s halfway mark.
How can I end spousal support if there is a change of circumstances?
You may also end spousal support earlier if there is a significant change of circumstances such as:
- An increase in your ex-spouse’s income, or
- A decrease in:
- His or her need for spousal support,
- Your income, or
- Your ability to pay spousal support.
Spousal support’s end is not always tied to income. External situations can also justify spousal support upon termination. These can potentially include:
- Decrease in your ex-spouse’s living expenses,
- Your ex-spouse coming into an influx of money such as an inheritance,
- Your ex-spouse’s cohabitation with a non-marital partner, or
- Your increase in living expenses.
Your case’s facts greatly influence the results. Spousal support laws on the above issues are not rigid.
How can I end spousal support in a long-term marriage?
People today still believe that a long-term marriage (a marriage of ten years or longer) is automatically a lifetime spousal support obligation for the higher earning spouse and automatically a lifetime retirement contract for the lower earning spouse. That may have been the law many years ago, but over the last ten years to fifteen years, California law has become much more liberal about ending spousal support under appropriate circumstances in a long-term marriage.
Much of what we discussed above also applies to long-term marriages so we will not repeat it here.
Does the halfway duration of the marriage matter in a long-term marriage when ending spousal support?
In a long term marriage, the halfway duration of the marriage is a complicated subject. While there is no Family Code section specific to this, our extensive family law experience teaches the shorter the “long-term” marriage, the more likely the family court will look at the halfway duration of the marriage as a good indicator to end spousal support.
For example, if the marriage is of a ten-year duration, the five-year mark is a date the court may seriously consider as a good end date to spousal support if the supporting spouse brings that request. Even if the paying spouse does not get that end to spousal support in his or her order at the time of the divorce judgment, he or she can still ask the court to end spousal support later such as at or around the five-year mark.
However, is the same true for a twenty-year marriage? That is when it gets more complicated. The longer the marriage, arguably the less relevant the halfway duration becomes. Fortunately, the longer the spousal support duration, the better argument the paying spouse has to end spousal support, even in a long-term marriage.
Contact us to learn more about how to end spousal support
When you are ready for an affordable strategy session with one of our family law attorneys about your spousal support, contact us. We currently handle family law matters in each of the seven Southern California counties. We also encourage you to read our comprehensive guide on California spousal support laws.
Nothing contained on this page or on our website is legal advice nor should it be construed as such. It is not intended to apply to your specific situation or answer your specific questions.