Although we are located in California, and primarily represent clients in divorce in San Diego, sometimes family law decisions made in other states are noteworthy. Recently, Florida lawmakers discussed putting a stop to spousal support awards extending beyond half the length of the marriage, even for long term marriages. There was a divorce law before Governor Rick Scott which would have generally prohibited payments from lasting beyond half of the length of the marriage. The proposed bill also gave family courts power to adjust current spousal support orders or agreements extending beyond the specified limits. In addition to containing provisions regarding support, the Florida law would have also imposed different custody and visitation laws which would have required the court to award equal custody in most cases.
As San Diego divorce attorneys are aware, there are two types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. In California, spousal support is commonly referred to as alimony. Spousal support is called “temporary” if it is awarded at any time before the final resolution of a case by agreement or trial. Spousal support is called “permanent” if it is awarded at the end of the case pursuant to a judgment. The length of the paying spouse’s permanent support obligation following divorce depends on a number of factors, particularly the length of the marriage. Thus, “permanent” spousal support is a misnomer that divorce lawyers frequently are asked to clarify, because it can be set with an expiration date or be terminated.
Although San Diego family court judges are far from predictable, generally if a marriage is “short term”, the paying spouse will only be obligated to make spousal support payments for half of the length of the marriage. In divorce, usually any marriage under ten years is considered a “short term” marriage and any marriage over ten years is considered a “long term” marriage. There is no limit currently in place pursuant to California family law that limits the length of a spousal support obligation arising out of a long term marriage. In some cases, a spouse may pay spousal support for the same duration of the marriage or longer.
Although Florida’s Governor vetoed the bill on May 1, it is not the only state considering eliminating any true “permanent” alimony. Currently, Massachusetts has adopted a similar bill and twenty other states are also in the process of drafting their own. If California were to pass such a law, spouses currently paying support past the “half of the length of the marriage” mark may consider consulting with a divorce attorney, and may head back to court to terminate their current obligation. Those opposed to this alimony reform argue that it flies against the best interest of children and families. Some believe that the law is “anti-woman” as men are ordered to pay spousal support more often than women under traditional stereotypes.
Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.