If you are recently divorced, you may have some questions regarding alimony. If you are wondering how long you have to pay your alimony after your divorce or have any other questions during this time, an Orange County family lawyer can help you understand the specific rulings given to you by the court. No matter whether your divorce was contested or uncontested, the length of the amount of time you pay alimony depends on the language of the judgement that was given in your divorce. 

Generally, in California, judgements will state that alimony will be paid until the death of either party, the remarriage of the receiving party, or until further order of the court is given. Further orders can be given based on your circumstances. The length of time paying alimony often will depend on the length of your marriage. Short-term marriages will typically have an end date given for alimony, while longer-term marriages can be left open-ended or have an end date as well. The terms of an alimony judgement determine how long alimony must be paid after a divorce. We recommend having an experienced family attorney review your divorce judgement if you have any questions or concerns. 

Short-Term Marriages 

In the state of California, marriages of 10 years or less are generally considered short-term marriages. Though this is not a strict rule, marriages between 9 and 10 years sometimes will fall into a gray area where they could be qualified as either long or short-term, depending on the circumstances. 

In a short-term marriage, if there is no end date set, the person paying alimony will generally pay alimony for approximately half the duration of the marriage. So with this rule, if your marriage lasted 6 years, you would pay alimony for approximately 3 years after the divorce judgement is final. 

However, it is important to note that if the judgement does not state an exact date for termination of alimony, you must go to court to request for termination. Do not assume your alimony will automatically end after half the number of years you were married has passed and just stop paying. It is important to have a qualified family attorney take a look at your divorce judgement if you are concerned about when your payment will end and if you need to proceed to court to terminate your alimony. 

Long-Term Marriages

A marriage that lasted for more than 10 years is considered to be a long-term marriage. According to California law, a court has the jurisdiction to order alimony without an end date, unless both parties have agreed otherwise. However, this does not necessarily mean the court will terminate alimony just because your marriage hit the 10-year mark. 

Now, if the divorce judgement states that alimony must be paid until the death of either party, the remarriage of the person receiving alimony or until further order of the court, the length of time will depend on a number of factors. In any case, of course, death or remarriage will end alimony unless otherwise stated. Yet, alimony in a long-term marriage can also go on for more than half the duration of the marriage. It can also be terminated under the half-year mark as well. The length of time depends if there is a specific, significant change of circumstances which could justify going to court to seek a modification. Again, seeking the counsel of an experienced family attorney is recommended if you have questions specific to your case. 

Very Long-Term Marriages

There is not a law in California which defines a very long-term marriage. Generally, we are talking about marriages lasting 20 years or more. In each case, the specific details of alimony length will depend based on certain circumstances outlined below.

Change of Circumstances for a Paying Party

A change of circumstances for the paying party can have a significant influence on how long you will need to continue paying alimony. So, let’s look at what exactly qualifies as a change of circumstances and how that can affect your alimony. One of the largest components in determining your alimony payment in a divorce order is your ability to pay. Here are some examples of changes in circumstances that can significantly modify your alimony. 

  1. Your income is reduced significantly
  2. You have an unexpected increase in expenses
  3. You have reached retirement 

Generally, these are 3 elements which can be reviewed when seeking a modification or termination of alimony with the court.  Of course, the court is not limited to just these 3 elements when reviewing alimony modification or termination. 

Change of Circumstances to a Receiving Party’s Need 

The person who is receiving alimony can also have a change in their financial circumstances which can warrant a change in alimony payment as well. Here are a few elements which can affect a person’s need for continued support. 

  1. An increased income 
  2. Cohabitation with a new partner
  3. A reduction in ongoing expenses
  4. An acquisition of new assets reducing or eliminating need (such as receiving an inheritance) 

As the party who is receiving alimony’s need changes after divorce, alimony can be either modified or terminated by the court. Again, the length of the marriage has a significant impact on the court’s ruling, and you will need to request a modification with the court. Remember that seeking the advice of an experienced family lawyer is highly recommended if the circumstances have changed for either party in your divorce. 

Other Circumstances

In some cases, the court has the power to reduce or eliminate alimony if the receiving party has not made reasonable efforts to become self-supporting. The receiving party will be given a formal admonition and face further consequences based on the discretion of the court. 

No matter your circumstances, if you are seeking a change in alimony it is best to seek out the experience of a family attorney who will advocate for you with your best interest in mind.