Spousal Support Duration in 10+ year Marriages

Spousal support is certainly a fertile topic of discussion.  For now, however, I would simply like to make some brief, follow-up remarks to those made in my last post, “Spousal Support:  Presumptions and Duration.”

In the context of discussing long term (10+ years) marriages,  I touched on the logical appropriateness of a ratio between the length of support and the length of marriage, very similar to the ratio of 50% given in the statutory presumption for short term marriages.  After all, as common sense tells us, the longer a marriage goes on, the more solidly parties expect to rely on the finances of a marital unit to provide for their future needs.

Now, if spousal support in a 10 year marriage lasts half the length of the marriage, and spousal support in a 20 year marriage goes on longer than 10 years—typically, it lasts until the Payor retires, or for the next 20 years, or forever, whichever comes first—we might accurately describe this situation as follows:   in 3-10 year marriages, the ratio of length of support to length of marriage is 50% (in marriages of less than 3 years, the entire presumptive ratio is mostly inapplicable), while in a 20 year marriage, this same ratio increases to at least 100% (i.e., 20+ years of support to 20+ years of marriage.)

What we see, then, is this:  the longer the marriage, the greater the ratio of length of support to length of marriage.  And if this ratio starts out at 50% in a 3-10 year marriage and increases to at least 100% over the space of 10 more years (i.e., in a 20+ year marriage), then it would be logical (and also mathematically precise) to designate a 5% increase of this ratio for every year of marriage greater than 10.

Thus, in marriages of 3 to 10 years, the ratio of support duration to marital length is set by statute at 50%, whereas in marriages of 10+ years, this ratio could appropriately be increased annually by 5%.  So, in an 11 year marriage, we would be looking at spousal support lasting for 55% of the marital length (i.e., 6.05 years); in a 12 year marriage, support could last for 60% of the marital length (i.e., 7.2 years); in a 13 year marriage, support could last for 65% of marital length (i.e., 8.45 years); and so on.  This gradual increase in the duration of support would also reflect the ongoing growth of the parties’ reliance on the community estate in long term marriages.

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About James Frederic Cox

Former Family Law Settlement Officer, with experience in over 13,000 cases,working as a Private Neutral in family law dispute resolution, from mediation through settlement conference to trial.
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