Timing Your Divorce Right: The Ten-Year Rule
Under California law, the lower-earning spouse getting a divorce may be entitled to spousal support for a longer term if he/she has been married to their current partner for ten years or more. If they have been married for less than ten years, spousal support is generally limited to a duration that is equal to half the length of the marriage.
Sounds a tad confusing? Let us illustrate it with the help of an example.
A and B are going through tough times and considering a divorce. A is the higher-earning spouse here, so it is A who is expected to pay alimony to B.
- If they have been married for, say 7 years, A needs to pay alimony to B for 3.5 years (three years and six months).
- If they have been married to each other for 11 years, A’s support obligation will not automatically terminate after half the length of the marriage.
In real life, Mel B (of Spice Girls fame) filed for divorce from producer Stephen Belafonte just short of their 10th anniversary. They would have completed ten years on June 6, 2017. She likely did this to avoid having to pay Belafonte ongoing spousal support with no specified termination date.
Actor Tom Cruise also mentioned in his divorce filing that his marriage to Nicole Kidman lasted only nine years and eleven months. It is believed that he did so for the same reason.
So if you are considering a divorce, ask yourself: How long have you been married to your present spouse?
If you expect to receive alimony, perhaps it would be a good idea to wait until your 10th wedding anniversary. That is assuming you haven’t celebrated it already. Who knows, you just might be able to put your differences aside and enjoy true marital bliss if you wait it out. You might not even want a divorce by then.
If you are the higher-earning spouse and will be expected to pay alimony, don’t wait until your 10th wedding anniversary if you are truly unhappy in your marriage and divorce seems inevitable. The sooner you get out, the better – you will end up paying lesser as support.
Getting divorced in California can be complicated. Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.
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