How Long Do I Have To Support My Former Spouse?


There are three distinct components relating to the issue of payment of spousal support to a former spouse: amount of support, duration of support, and the court’s continuing power over the issue after Judgment.

While child support is calculated using the statewide uniform guidelines, allowing a court to use programs such as the “DissoMaster” to calculate child support obligations, spousal support calculation is not formula driven. In fact, it is reversible error for a court to rely on a support calculator when making orders for permanent spousal support.

Family Code section 4320 governs how the court determines the amount of spousal support due to a former spouse. This code section imposes a duty upon the court to consider, among other factors, the extent to which the earning capacity of each party is sufficient to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, taking into account the marketable skills of the supported party, the job market for those skills, the age and health of the parties, as well as factors such as periods of unemployment during marriage, the duration of marriage, evidence of domestic violence, and any other factors the court deems just and equitable.

With respect to the duration of payment of support, the public policy of the State of California stands for the proposition that the supported party become self supporting within a reasonable period of time. “Reasonable period of time” is generally one half of the length of the marriage.

With regard to the court’s power to make or modify support orders, one of the significant determinative factors is the length of marriage between the parties. Generally, a marriage of 10 years or more is referred to as a marriage of “long duration.” On the flip side, a marriage of less than 10 years, is referred to as a marriage of “short duration.” Where the marriage is of long duration, the court’s power over the issue extends indefinitely.

Whether you are the payor of spousal support, or the party receiving support, while some of these rules are absolute, the court’s discretion over some of these issues is very broad. The rights of a payee and the obligations of a payor are complex and should be reviewed with a family law attorney.

For more information about this and other family law matters, contact The Reape-Rickett Law Firm, at 661-288-1000, located at 25152 Springfield Ct., # 100 in Valencia, or log on to

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