When alimony or spousal support is an issue when jurisdiction terminates, if at all should be discussed. In California, a marriage of 10 years is usually defined as a marriage of long duration. As such, it is important to discuss not only how much spousal support should be but for how long.
Unlike with child support in which the court retains jurisdiction to modify orders throughout a child’s minority, the court does not necessarily have the same kind of automatic continuing jurisdiction for spousal support. The first major principal to keep in mind for a supported party is that without an express reservation of jurisdiction written into a Judgment, the court cannot extend or reinstate spousal support.
If you are the supported spouse, the language you want to see in the Judgment would be: “Husband agrees to pay to Wife the sum of $ per month as and for spousal support payable on the 1st of each month, commencing on a date, until the death of either party, upon remarriage of Wife, further written agreement of the parties, or further order of the Court.”
If you are the spouse paying, you want to make sure the duration of support is limited. The “duration of support should be limited so that both parties, where possible, can develop their own lives, free from obligations to each other.” Marriage of Prietsch & Calhoun (1987) 190 Cal.App. 3d 645, 663. The policy of the law you want to reinforce is that the right to receive spousal support should not last forever.
Family Code (FC) section 4320 is the key California statute governing spousal support. Subsection (l) of 4320 strongly directs the trial courts to consider the policy in ordering spousal support in the following terms: “it is the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time.”
Except in the case of a marriage of long duration as described in Section 4336, and the circumstances of the parties. As already mentioned, FC Section 4336 (b) establishes a rebuttable presumption that a marriage of 10 years or more, calculated from the date of marriage to the date of separation, is a marriage of “long duration” for purposes of retaining spousal support jurisdiction.
In litigation involving marriages in excess of 10 years, a tactic used is to have a supporting spouse present an order to have a contingent spousal support jurisdiction termination also known as a Richmond order. Marriage of Richmond (1980) 105 Cal.App.3d 352, 356. This would be an order terminating spousal support jurisdiction on a specified date unless, before the specified date, the supported spouse shows the court good cause to modify the amount and/or duration.
These orders are generally more common when the supported spouse is receiving education or is being trained for a career. It is critical that the FC 4320 factors, the standard of living of the parties, and all relevant evidence be provided to the trial court by the parties to insure that the court reach an equitable and just decision.
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