Spousal support is a touchy subject for some people. Part of the issue with it is that people do not understand some aspects of the law regarding support. There is a very common misconception in California that spousal support lasts until one party dies. This is not always the case.
The California Courts explains that the length of support is mainly dependent on the length of the marriage. Because the marriage is ending in divorce, it did not last a lifetime. Therefore, not many cases end with an order for lifetime spousal support.
Understand the goal
One thing that will help dispel the myth that spousal support lasts a lifetime is to understand why the court awards it in the first place. Support of this nature is to help a lower-earning spouse get to a point where he or she can become financially self-sufficient. Generally, the court wants this to happen within a reasonable time based upon factors, such as the person’s education level, skills, work history and ability to work.
What the law says
A reasonable time, as the law defines it, is typically half of the length of the marriage. For example, a four-year marriage could result in two years of support payments. The judge does have the ability to override this suggestion, though, depending on the circumstances in the case. This most often occurs when a marriage lasted over 10 years.
This is also the situation where the misconception comes into play because in the case of a marriage that lasted over 10 years, the judge cannot set an end date to the payments. Essentially, this then makes it lifetime support, but this is not a common action. The court usually sets an end date.
Ending spousal support may happen due to something outside the court’s control. Obviously, the death of the person paying or receiving support will end the obligation. Also, a remarriage of the person receiving support will also end it.