It depends on a few things.
First of all, the court will decide the maximum length of time you are allowed to receive spousal support. If you have been married for less than ten years, the rule of thumb is that you can receive support for up to half the time your marriage lasted. That means if you were married for two years, you can probably expect to receive spousal support for one year. The court does encourage individuals to secure steady employment and show that they are truly making an effort to earn their own money. If you begin earning enough money to support yourself before the allotted period of time is up, you will probably stop receiving your spousal support.
If you were married for ten years or more, this is considered a long-term marriage and it is possible that the judge will not set an end date for spousal support payments. This does not mean it is going to go on forever, but the time frame is a bit looser.
Keeping these things in mind, your spousal support can end whenever the court says it ends. The judge may decide you are not making a good faith effort to find work and immediately terminate your rights to spousal support. Your support may also end if your ex-spouse dies or retires. If you get re-married, you will also probably lose your spousal support.
If you are looking for legal assistance with spousal support in California, contact San Francisco family law attorney Paul H. Nathan for a consultation by calling 415-341-1144.