How long do you have to be married to get alimony in California?
This is a question often raised by a spouse in a short-term marriage. Spouses ask this question because they are unsure whether a court would order alimony given the short duration of their marriage. This question impacts both the spouse who is concerned about paying alimony and the spouse concerned about receiving alimony.
Let’s look at this question closer for some answers. Everything we write here only applies to California divorces and no other State.
There is no specific marriage duration to get alimony in California
The good news is there is no specific minimum duration before a spouse may receive alimony. A California family court bases its decision to order alimony on a variety of factors, the most important of which is the marital standard of living.
But beyond that, there is also a difference between temporary alimony and the final alimony number. The rules are different from a practical perspective.
How long do you have to be married to get alimony on a temporary basis?
In our experience, in Southern California courts, judges will award temporary alimony while the divorce is pending on marriages that are six months or longer. There is no black and white rule here. Shorter marriages can result in alimony orders. Longer marriages can have alimony denied.
But we have found as long as you can show the court you have a need for alimony based on the marital standard of living and the other spouse has the ability to pay it, you stand a reasonable chance of getting temporary alimony. Temporary alimony is often based on a computer program.
Temporary alimony usually lasts while the divorce is pending although if the halfway duration of the marriage in a very short marriage will be less time than the number of months the divorce is pending, the family court may order alimony for only half the duration of the marriage.
For example, in a six month marriage, the court may order temporary alimony for three months and have a cut off date as opposed to keeping it going for the entire length of the divorce case and until it ends.
How long do you have to be married to get alimony at a trial?
This also depends on the length of the marriage and whether one spouse received temporary alimony. To give you a couple of hypotheticals, keep reading.
Hypothetical number one, let us assume the following:
- The marriage was only for six months from the marriage date to the separation date.
- The husband earned much more money than the wife during the marriage and that is still true today.
- The wife never asked for temporary alimony.
- One year later the divorce case is actually going to trial.
Will the wife get alimony on the six-month marriage one year later? While it is possible, we do not believe it is probable. When a year has already passed on a six month marriage, it will be difficult to justify alimony. The logic is how would alimony at that point maintain any marital standard of living or any status quo?
Hypothetical number two: Let us now assume it is the same hypothetical as the first one but the marriage is 5 years from the marriage date to the date of separation.
In that hypothetical, the wife has a better chance of getting alimony at trial even though she did not seek it on a temporary basis. That is because the duration of the marriage is longer and she may need the money to maintain the marital standard living for half the duration of the marriage, which would be 2 1/2 years.
However, even in this second hypothetical, the wife did not do herself any favors by not asking for temporary alimony. That could impact the court’s decision and question whether the wife actually needs alimony at trial and going forward.
The most important take away from all this is there is no way to predict a one-size-fits-all scenario for every case. The facts of the case, the Court at which the case is pending and a particular judge’s discretion could impact the case.
What has our experience shown on how long you have to be married to get alimony?
In our experience within Southern California courts, judges are more reluctant to award spousal support for marriages that are under one year. They are more willing to award alimony on such very short marriages if there is a significant income disparity between the spouses or one spouse would truly be placed in a very difficult financial situation if alimony is not awarded.
On marriages that are longer than one year, the results can vary significantly. So much again depends on the marital standard of living and the Family Code section 4320 factors. Check out our guide on California alimony laws to learn more.
Nothing contained in this article is legal advice nor should it be construed as legal advice. Please have a private consultation with an attorney to obtain answers to questions about your specific case.