10 Year Marriages and Divorce
What is the Deal with 10 Year Marriages in California?
“I just need to make it 10 years to get the most out of this marriage,” says the golddigger to her best friend. Her best friend knowingly nods. “That’s right, baby, lifetime alimony!”
Ignorance is bliss!
10 Years Does NOT Mean Lifetime Alimony
The golddiggers are wrong. Lifetime alimony (aka spousal support) doesn’t come with 10 years.
All the law says is that in a long-term marriage (defined as 10 years or more), the Courts may maintain jurisdiction over the issue of spousal support. Meaning, the Courts have the power to order it. (versus in a short-term marriage, spousal support is reasonably set to 1/2 the length and jurisdiction usually terminated).
What in the world is the “10 year rule” and is it true?
Family Code 4336 defines a long term marriage as a marriage lasting over 10 years.
For short term marriages, Family Code 4320 (l) sets forth the rule the goal that the supported party shall be self-supporting within a reasonable period of time, and defines “reasonable period of time” as 1/2 the length of the marriage.
There is No Reason to Believe Alimony Will Last Forever
The 10 year rule and forever alimony is a myth. If you are looking to end a marriage, do NOT let this ridiculous misconception cause you to stay longer for the purpose of alimony.
Social Security Benefits and 10 Years
If your spouse works, and you were married for ten years of longer, you will be eligible to collect derivative Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record when you reach retirement age (if you don’t remarry).
Military and 10 Years
10 years also is significant if your ex spouse is active military and has been for 10 years. You would be eligible for retirement pay.
If You’re the Payor and Worried, Get a Prenup Before You Marry
Don’t freak out if you are the payor and the marriage is hitting 10 years. If you are worried about alimony, get a prenup. The law allows you to waive or limit spousal support prior to entering into the marriage. Incidentally, the law allows you to waive it after the marriage, but in my experience, you will have a better chance of convincing your spouse to waive it PRIOR to the marriage than after.
Goal to Become Self-Supporting
There is freedom in not depending on someone financially. In all my years of practicing family law, I have NEVER heard anyone who later got a job/career complain about “having to get a job”.
It may be scary in the beginning. It may be tempting to “get as much money as possible” from the other side.
Resist the urge to keep fighting: you will forever be bound to a court order, or someone’s generosity, or obligation to pay. The only true source of happiness is independence. You will never have to stay in an abusive situation if you can support yourself.
It is a privilege and duty to support yourself and family. Most people find self-confidence, purpose and new friendships at the workplace.
Giving, Not Getting
Don’t focus so much on what you’re “getting”. A sustainable marriage is both sides giving.