Does a 10-Year Marriage Guarantee Alimony?

May 14, 2021 Divorce

Marriages are hard work, and while some people get married and figure out almost right away that they are completely wrong for each other, others take longer to process that truth. Especially after children and mid-life crises, divorce can become more common among couples who have been together for years. There’s even an old saying about the seven-year itch in a marriage that proclaims that couples begin to get bored or tired of one another around that seven-year mark. Even marriages that have lasted 10 or more years may find themselves in trouble and considering divorce. If you’re one-half of such a couple, you might want to talk to an Irvine divorce lawyer to explore your options.

Many people frequently ask whether being married for a certain length of time guarantees you will be entitled to alimony or spousal support. However, there are a lot of misconceptions around this supposed 10-year rule that exists in California.

The “10-Year Rule” in California

There is a misconception among many people who live in California that states that the higher-earning half of a couple who is divorcing after 10 years in California will be required to pay spousal support for life. This advice, however, isn’t true: Being married for 10 years and then divorcing does not lead to an automatic alimony payment. Instead, California law bases alimony payments on a different set of factors.

California courts recognize that spouses who earn less because they have chosen to be stay-at-home parents, are between jobs, or simply make less in their careers can obtain spousal support and maintain the lifestyle they once led while married. The amount of alimony awarded to the lower-earning spouse will generally be calculated according to what is needed to maintain your basic needs aligned with what your standard of living was before divorcing. Alimony isn’t guaranteed forever, but rather until the lower-earning spouse has had time to get back on their feet (though it’s not uncommon for alimony to last forever, especially in the case of a high asset divorce).

However, California law does expressly discuss long-term marriages when calculating alimony. In a marriage that lasted less than 10 years, the court prescribes alimony for one-half the length of the marriage. This means that if you were married for six years, the judge would be able to order that your alimony payments terminate after three years. However, in a marriage with a “long duration” – defined as 10 years – the courts can continue to have jurisdiction over it in the long term. This means that they don’t have to set a date for termination of alimony payments and will generally terminate alimony only when the parties show there has been a substantial change in circumstances.

Contact an Irvine Divorce Lawyer to Discuss Your Specific Situation

The 10-year rule doesn’t mean that alimony can go on forever – it simply means that you will need an experienced Irvine divorce lawyer on your side who can help you build a case for or against long-term alimony. Contact our offices today.