Spouses ordered to pay spousal support are often understandably resentful of the court-ordered obligation. After all, a significant portion of their earnings is going to their ex-spouse. But are there ways to end spousal support? Below, we examine when and how to end spousal support in California, and what factors the court will consider.
Is There a Valid Reason for Spousal Support to Continue?
Alimony serves some legitimate purposes. It’s unreasonable for a high-earning spouse to exist a marriage and leave the other low-earning spouse suddenly financially responsible for the entire family or themselves. During the marriage, spouses agree to a division of responsibility within the home. Typically, one spouse works more to provide for the family financially, while the other spouse may only work part time or not all all in order to tend to day to day needs of the home.
That said, things get murky when the low-earning spouse refuses to work though they possess the ability and opportunity to do so. In such cases, spousal support could seem like a reward for the lazy spouse. Whether the other spouse is lying about their income or willfully unemployed, there are valid reasons for ending spousal support.
How to End Spousal Support in California in Short-Term Marriages
A short-term marriage is usually defined as a marriage that lasts for less than ten years, from date of marriage to date of separation. In most short-term marriages, the duration of spousal support should last exactly one-half the length of the total marriage. For instance, in marriages of eight years, spousal support would not last for more than four years. But keep in mind that the one-half rule is not set in stone, and is more of a general principle than a strict rule.
You may end spousal support earlier if your ex-spouse’s income increases or if their need for support decreases. In addition, you can request spousal support to end if your income or ability to pay decreases.
Other external situations may call for the termination of spousal support:
- Decrease in the living expenses of your ex-spouse.
- Your ex-spouse receives an influx of money, like an inheritance.
- Your ex-spouse cohabits with a non-marital partner.
- Increase in your living expenses.
How to End Spousal Support in California in Long-Term Marriages
In the past ten years or so, California’s laws for spousal support for long-term marriages (usually ten or more years long) have become more more relaxed. It’s no longer the case where a long-term marriage meant a lifetime of spousal support for the higher-earning spouse. In fact, much of what we discussed above also now applies to long-term marriages as well.
From our experience, shorter long-term marriages still typically follow the one-half duration principle for spousal support. For instance, the court more than likely will follow the one-half principle for a ten year long marriage, which means five years of spousal support. Though longer long-term marriages are more complicated regarding spousal support length, you don’t need to fear paying support for the rest of your life.