The mythical 10-year rule in California divorces

On Behalf of | May 13, 2024 | Divorce |

Californians who are about to get divorced have many questions. One of the most frequently asked questions is about the obligation to pay alimony if the marriage has lasted more than 10 years. Often called the “10-year rule,” this mythical doctrine states that the obligation to pay alimony will be permanent if the marriage has lasted longer than 10 years.

Marriages that lasted 10 years or more

In reality, no such rule exists. However, the 10-year duration of the marriage is important for another reason. California law states that the court retains jurisdiction over the divorce indefinitely if the marriage was of “long duration.” The rule of thumb used by California courts for determining if a marriage had a long duration is 10 years.

The legal effect of the real 10-year rule

The court’s continuing jurisdiction over divorces in marriages that lasted more than 10 years does not mean that alimony will be permanent. Rather, the rule means that the court that originally adjudicated the divorce continues to have jurisdiction to issue orders that affect how the couple deals with post-marital issues after the divorce becomes final.

As a practical matter, the parties are not required to file formal motions to bring an issue to the attention of the court in order for the court to gather evidence, conduct a hearing and issue an order to resolve the dispute.

How does the 10-year rule affect alimony?

In divorces that follow marriages that have lasted for 10 years or more, the statute gives the judge authority to consider evidence that the alimony arrangement is unfair or burdensome and may need modification. The judge may decide to collect evidence on the financial condition of the parties by conducting a hearing. The same rule applies to other issues that might arise after a divorce.