California spousal support is designed to help a spouse with limited income to maintain their standard of living after a divorce. But, how long does spousal support last?

When awarding spousal support, a judge has three alternatives:

  • Fixed period spousal support: Spousal support is awarded for a set period of months or years after the divorce. There is no support after this term.
  • Conditional termination of spousal support (Richmond order):  Spousal support is awarded for a set period of months or years after the divorce. If support is still needed after this term, the spouse receiving support may petition a judge to extend the duration of the spousal support.
  • Indefinite spousal support: There will be no change in the award of spousal support unless there is an agreed upon change of circumstances—for example, if the spouse receiving support gets remarried. This does not mean that spousal support must continue indefinitely; either spouse may successfully petition for a modification or termination. Indefinite support is most commonly awarded after a long-term marriage (more than 10 years).

Factors that influence the duration of spousal support

When considering the duration of spousal support, a judge will first consider the length of the marriage. If the marriage is of “short duration” (lasted less than ten years), the judge will usually award fixed period spousal support. Spousal support for short-duration marriages is awarded with the condition that the supported spouse will be “self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.” A reasonable period of time is usually considered half the period of the marriage.

When a marriage is of "long duration" (has lasted for more than ten years), a judge will order either indefinite or conditional termination of spousal support.  

Do you have questions about divorce and spousal support in California? Contact the San Francisco spousal support attorneys at The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 415-341-1144. 

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