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San Diego Lawyers Handle Cases of Divorce Involving Marriages of Long Duration

How the 10-Year Rule Impacts a San Diego Divorce

Under California law, a marriage of 10 years is automatically considered a marriage of long duration. If it chooses to do so, the court may declare a marriage that has lasted less than 10 years a marriage of long duration, as well. Two aspects of the divorce process are significantly impacted when a marriage is deemed one of long duration.

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Jurisdiction of the Court in Marriages of Long Duration

For a marriage that has lasted 10 years or longer or is declared by the court to be a marriage of long duration, the court retains jurisdiction over the parties after the divorce is finalized. If the court has ruled on a matter such as child custody, child support, or spousal support (alimony), and circumstances subsequently change, a party may request a modification of the divorce decree. The same judge will hear the matter again. Even after the divorce is final, the judge may award alimony or otherwise modify the terms of the divorce. The party who is paying alimony may argue that spousal support is no longer necessary, but that party will have the burden of proving it.

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Spousal Support After a Marriage of Long Duration

It is a common misconception that after a marriage has lasted 10 years or longer, you may be obligated to pay or entitled to receive spousal support for the remainder of your life. This is simply not true. Although the length of the marriage can be a major factor in the amount and duration of alimony, there is no guarantee that it will continue for life.

When a marriage of less than 10 years is dissolved in California, the standard length of time for which spousal support is awarded is half the length of the marriage, although the law specifically states that it does not limit the discretion of the court to order support for a greater or lesser time. For example, if the marriage lasted eight years, one spouse may be entitled to receive alimony for four years, after which time spousal support would end.

With a marriage of long duration, however, if circumstances change, the party receiving alimony can return to court and request that the duration of support be extended. The judge will consider the same factors in determining spousal support, whether the marriage was of long duration. These factors include:

  • Each party’s contribution to the marriage
  • Each party’s contribution to the household
  • Ability of each party to support himself or herself
  • Ability of a party to become financially independent in the future

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Effect of Separation on a Marriage of Long Duration

Separation can affect whether a marriage is considered of long duration by the court. Generally, the length of a marriage is calculated from the date of marriage to the date of separation. However, if the spouses lived apart for a significant period during the marriage, the court may deduct the time apart in calculating the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple was married for 10 years before they filed for separation, but lived apart for two of those years, the marriage may not be considered of long duration, and the court may not retain jurisdiction.

Our San Diego family law attorney at Mattis Law, A.P.C. can guide you through the process of divorce or assist you in petitioning the court to modify spousal support or other orders. Call us at (858) 328-4400 to schedule a free consultation. We can explain your options under the law.

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