Clearly the answer to that question depends on your situation. If you’re paying spousal support, the answer is “Not soon enough.” If you’re receiving spousal support, the answer is “Way too soon!!”
Those sentiments notwithstanding, there are guidelines for when spousal support begins and ends. Those guidelines are found in Family Code § 4320, which, among other things, states:
“(l) The goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time. Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, a ‘reasonable period of time’ for purposes of this section generally shall be one-half the length of the marriage. However, nothing in this section is intended to limit the court’s discretion to order support for a greater or lesser length of time, based on any of the other factors listed in this section, Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties.”
“. . . self-supporting within a reasonable period of time” has been generally interpreted to mean the following: In a marriage of less than ten (10) years in length, it means one half the length of the marriage. In other words, in a five (5) year marriage, spousal support should terminate after a period of two and one half (2 ½) years (unless for good cause as ordered by the Court).
So to answer the question, when will spousal support end (or terminate, as the Courts say):
If your marriage lasted less than ten (10) years, at a time equal to half (1/2) the lengh of the marriage.
If the marriage lasted more than ten (10) years, then the answer is – it depends. Is the supported spouse young, healthy, has skills and is capable of working? If the answer to those questions is, “Yes,” the Court will give a reasonable period of time to become self supporting, then modify spousal support down, eventually to $0 (but maintains jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support in case of future need).
In the event the supported spouse is older, unhealthy, lacks job skills, education, training, experience, been out of the job market for an extended period, then assuming the supporting spouse has the necessary resources, spousal support will continue unless upon cohabitation (where there is presumption of reduced need), remarriage (spousal support automatically terminates upon remarriage unless extended by mutual agreement), or further order of court.