It can be a serious challenge to recover economically from a divorce, especially for the spouse that earns less. If your earning capacity or ability to work is significantly lower than that of your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you might depend upon a spousal support award to see you through until you can become self sufficient again. But how long can you expect to receive spousal support? Is there such thing as permanent spousal support?

How spousal support is determined

When a California divorce court is determining which spouse should pay spousal support to the other, as well as how much and for how long, they consider a list of factors.

Typically, the court considers the earning capacity of each spouse, which includes their education level and work experience. They also consider their ability to work, such as their health condition, whether they are taking care of minor children all day and so forth.

Finally, they consider the length of the marriage. In general, the longer a marriage lasted, the longer spousal support will last. That length of time can be modified if the court thinks that it’s fair to do so considering all the other factors.

It won’t be for life

In California, the judge will almost certainly limit the amount of time you will receive spousal support. A lifetime award might occasionally occur, but they are extremely rare. Lifetime awards would only be a possibility if there were extreme or unusual circumstances, such as one spouse being terminally ill and unable to care for themselves, and if the marriage had lasted a long time.

In general, you can expect your spousal support order to last just long enough to get you back on your feet. Spousal support exists to bridge the financial gap between the time you get the divorce and the time you can support yourself again. It serves an important function and can make all the difference for someone who is trying to recover from their divorce financially.