How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in California?

While no one wants a divorce, the fact is that a large percentage of marriages end this way. However, provisions are in place to protect any vulnerable parties, such as alimony, which is an arrangement whereby one of the former spouses pays a set amount to the other to as a means of support. But how long does one need to be married to be eligible for alimony? After all, while some marriages last decades, other last months. Is there a minimum amount of time required to be married here in California before you can get alimony?

Types of Alimony

Before we answer the main question, we need to understand what alimony is and how it works. The first type is temporary alimony. The intent is that the spouse who earns more provides financial support to the spouse who earns less during the divorce proceedings. The spouse requesting temporary alimony must get make the request and get approval at the beginning of the process, which can last months or even years.

The second type is permanent alimony and payment begins after the divorce is final. Ironically, it generally isn’t necessarily permanent, as the exact length of time varies on factors such as the length of the marriage and how long it would take for the supported spouse to get on their feet and able to support him or herself.

The couple themselves can agree either type of alimony or a court may decide and order payment. When done within the courts, the amount paid is based on computer formulas taking into account how much the paying spouse makes and the standard of living the supported spouse had during their marriage.

Does the Length of the Marriage Matter?

The length of the marriage matters – but only in permanent alimony. Regardless of the length of the marriage, temporary alimony will always be an option. However, when a marriage lasted less than ten years, the permanent alimony will typically only last for about half the length of the marriage itself. For example, a marriage of eight years can expect an alimony period of four years. Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule and depending on the circumstances, the couple or a judge may decide on different terms.

Now, this brings us to the question of very short marriages, or ones that last less than a year. Marriages of just one day are technically eligible for alimony in a divorce, but the requesting spouse must make a good case. Remember that the principle behind alimony is that since the couple made a life together and one partner became dependent on the other, if it were to end that partner would need financial support to get on their feet to be independent. However, the court must take into account how much of a life a couple had together.

In the experience of many attorneys in the state, six months seems to be the period of time that the courts find reasonable to award any sort of alimony. Again, this is not a set rule – a court might award alimony in a marriage of two weeks while it may not in a marriage of twenty years, depending on the circumstances of both the marriage and the divorce.

If you find yourself in a situation of needing to have an idea of eligibility a divorce, it would be best to contact an attorney who specializes in divorce and alimony. They can give you an idea of what to expect based on what they’ve experienced.