There is a common misconception that getting a divorce entails paying or receiving spousal support indefinitely. Historically, people tended to expect that only remarrying or other major events would end the obligation to make payments.
In reality, spousal support orders do not usually last for an indefinite period of time. Many factors can affect the duration of an order to pay support.
Length of a marriage
Marriages that last for many years are likely to have more financial reliance than relatively short marriages. If people were married for only a short period of time, courts in California may deny a petition for support or make an order very brief.
Wealth and earnings
The goal in issuing an order to make payments is not to achieve complete parity in each spouse’s income and standard of living. Instead, courts intend for orders to provide limited assistance so that a person can enhance his or her earning capacity and increase wealth independently. Because need plays a key role, the respective assets and earning capacity of both parties may bear heavily on a court’s analysis.
Achieving financial independence
Judges typically award spousal support so that people will have adequate resources until they are able to transition to financial independence. They may consider the time and expense involved in professional development opportunities such as pursuing a degree.
It is important to bear in mind that courts make rulings about spousal support in light of the circumstances in effect at the time of a hearing. Courts may grant petitions for modification but only if there is a material change in circumstances.