Two issues arise with regard to spousal support: the amount of spousal support and the duration of spousal support.
The duration of spousal support is closely linked to the length of the marriage. Frequently, practitioners speak of the ‘rule of thumb’ that spousal support will last for one-half the length of the marriage.
The duration of spousal support is left to the sound discretion of the court within certain general equitable principals and guidelines most often set forth in the common law case histories. However, in marriages of less than ten years, the statute provides a presumption that support should be granted for half the length of the marriage.
The California legislature has enacted a statute which indicates that when permanent support is established at the time of trial, it is an abuse of discretion for the court to set a future termination date if the marriage is of lengthy duration. The statute goes on to indicate that
any marriage of ten years in duration is considered a lengthy marriage.
As a practical matter, in the late 1990s it appears that spousal support duration is linked to a transition period from married life to single life. The circumstances vary from person-to-person, but the courts tend to disfavor “lifetime support.”
The court has a broad discretion in ascertaining the amount of spousal support as well as its duration. Some California counties have adopted a guideline which suggests the appropriate range of spousal support on a temporary basis. Many counties do not allow the guideline to be the sole indicator of the amount of permanent spousal support. California State law provides that spousal
support is determined by a careful review of a number of factors.