What is the “10-Year Rule” in a California Divorce?

What is the “10-Year Rule” in a California Divorce?

 What is the 10-Year Rule in a California divorce? Spousal support (alimony) can be an important issue in a California divorce. One common misconception is that under the “10-Year Rule,” a California couple must have been married for ten years in order for a spouse to be awarded permanent or long-term alimony during a divorce. In truth, the court can consider the length of a marriage and numerous other factors when deciding spousal support. Here is more on why 10 years may matter in a California divorce.

California Spousal Support

California law provides that in a divorce or separation, “the court may order a party to pay for the support of the other party an amount, for a period of time, that the court determines as just and reasonable, based on the standard of living established during the marriage” while considering numerous specific factors.  

When ordering spousal support in a California divorce, the court may advise the recipient that they “should make reasonable efforts to assist in providing for their support needs, taking into account the particular circumstances considered by the court.” However, the law provides that the court can determine that this warning is inadvisable in the case of “a marriage of long duration.”

Marriage of Long Duration and the 10-Year Rule

California Family Code 4336 provides that outside of a written agreement or court order terminating spousal support, a court will retain jurisdiction indefinitely over a divorce or separation where the parties have a long-duration marriage. For purposes of retaining jurisdiction, the law presumes that “a marriage of 10 years or more” from the date of marriage to separation is “a marriage of long duration.”  However, the court can also look at separation periods to make this determination. In addition, the law specifically states that the court is not precluded from “determining that a marriage of less than 10 years is a marriage of long duration.”

Generally, when spousal support is granted, it may be for up to one-half of the length of the marriage. For instance, if a marriage was for four years, the court may order a higher-income spouse to pay the other support for two years. The court also has the discretion to order longer or shorter support periods.

When a couple has had a marriage of long duration, the court retains jurisdiction. When a couple has been married for 10 years, there is the possibility that support could be long-term or even permanent. Whether a court will order spousal support after a marriage of long duration will depend on several factors, including contributions made during the marriage and earning potential.

The 10-Year Rule and Social Security Benefits

Another place where the 10-Year Rule may come up is in connection with Social Security. The Social Security Administration also considers 10 years to be long-term marriage. This matters because it means that if you have been married for 10 years, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your former spouse’s record when you reach retirement age.

The 10-Year Rule and Military Divorce

Military divorce also has a 10-Year Rule. When a service member has been married for 10 years or more while on active duty, their former spouse may be eligible for direct payment and enforcement of their community share of the servicemember’s military retirement. Military divorce spouses who have been married for less than 10 years during active duty may also be eligible for their community share of their ex’s retirement. However, these individuals will not be eligible for direct payment of their percentage of the benefit from the military finance office.

Contact a California Divorce Attorney

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Judy L. Burger are experienced California divorce attorneys who can answer your questions about spousal support, the 10-year Rule, and other essential matters. We assist clients along California’s Northern to Southern Coast, including San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Marin, San Jose, Gold River, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Ventura/Oxnard, and surrounding communities. Call us at 415-293-8314 to schedule a private appointment or visit our website.



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