2024 How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in California?

By Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP | Jul 07, 2023

When you get married to someone, you don’t ever plan to be divorced. You don’t expect to be financially dependent upon someone you aren’t married to, nor do you expect to have someone you aren’t married to financially dependent on you. For either side, alimony can be an unexpected and challenging dynamic. Making the process all the more difficult is the lack of solid rules around the process, including how long you have to be married to receive alimony.


Alimony, preferably called spousal support in California, is described as existing for the purpose of allowing the person who makes less income to transition from married life to being single. It’s not meant to sustain someone for the rest of their life, although there will be cases where it effectively serves that function. There is no minimum length of marriage to receive alimony. However, the less difficult it will be for the lesser-earning spouse to transition to single life, the less spousal support they should expect to receive.

There are two types of spousal support that are awarded:

  • Temporary Support – This is support that is meant to last through the divorce process. Typically, as long as a marriage has lasted 6 to 12 months, temporary support is awarded, though longer marriages have had it rejected. The specifics of each divorce will determine what happens.
  • Rehabilitative Support – This is support that extends beyond the divorce process. Its purpose is to last as long as needed for the lower earner to become sufficient enough in terms of training and income to be self-supported. It is not meant to be a kind of permanent support in most cases. For marriages of less than 10 years, it typically lasts for half the length of the marriage. For longer marriages, there is no real guideline for how long the support should last.

Alimony Factors

When determining alimony that extends beyond the divorce proceedings, or rehabilitative support, the length of the marriage is a factor that will be considered. If alimony is being argued in court, it’s important to have an attorney who knows how to address all the factors involved. Some of these factors include:

  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The needs of each spouse
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The supporting spouse’s ability to pay
  • The earning ability of each spouse, which includes the skills they have, the job market for their abilities, and reduced earning capacity due to time spent out of the market caring for children and the home
  • Each spouse’s ability to be gainfully employed in a way that doesn’t negatively impact their children
  • The lower-earning spouse’s contributions to the other’s education
  • Any history of domestic violence or sexual assault against the other spouse or children
  • The hardships that each spouse experiences
  • Anything else that the judge believes should be considered


Q: How Long Does an Ex-Spouse Have to Pay Alimony in California?

A: There is no set rule for how long alimony will have to be paid, but there are some general trends. The purpose of alimony, or spousal support as it is also known, is to allow the lesser-earning spouse the opportunity to transition to single life. It is not necessarily meant to give them a source of income for the rest of their life, although in the cases of longer marriages and spouses of more advanced age, this could be the result. Marriages that are not ten years in length are not considered to be long-term. Typically, this results in an alimony period of half the length of the marriage. In long-term marriages, there is no set period of time, and it will depend on what the judge sees as fit.

Q: What Qualifies You for Alimony in California?

A: California does not have any specific rules regarding qualification for alimony. For instance, there is no minimum length of marriage, although a shorter marriage is less likely to result in a significant alimony payment. California does, though, have some rules that can disqualify someone from receiving alimony. For instance, the spouse with greater income is not going to receive alimony. More importantly, anyone is ineligible for alimony if they have been convicted of a sexual assault or domestic violence felony against either their spouse or children. Also, if they have attempted to murder their spouse, they are ineligible. It is not a strict law, but it is strongly recommended that anyone convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault or domestic violence against their spouse should not receive alimony.

Q: What Is the 10-Year Rule Regarding Marriages and Spousal Support in California?

A: In California, any marriage that lasts more than ten years is considered to be a long-term marriage. When a marriage is under ten years, alimony is typically half the length of the marriage. In situations that involve a marriage of longer than ten years, there is no rule or guideline regarding the length of alimony, but a number of factors will be considered.

Q: Will I Get Temporary Spousal Support?

A: There’s not a firm rule about who will and won’t get temporary spousal support. However, a marriage that’s lasted at least 6 to 12 months will generally get some level of temporary support, although longer marriages than that have been denied based on the circumstances. The temporary spousal support is usually based on guidelines that take 40% of the higher earner’s income, subtract 50% of the lower earner’s income, and require the higher earner to make up the difference.

Fight for an Alimony Agreement That Treats You Fairly

The most difficult parts of the divorce process, aside from anything involving kids, can be anything involving money. Coming to an alimony agreement that both sides are happy with can be incredibly challenging. Each side feels like the money is rightfully theirs, whether they are paying or being paid. Getting an alimony agreement that is fair to you can be difficult if you don’t have the right representation. At Quinn & Dworakowski, LLP, we have experience with alimony cases of all kinds and know how to help you pursue an agreement that treats you fairly. Contact us today to discuss your divorce and alimony situation.

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