December 21, 2023 In Divorce

Spousal Support Dynamics: Considering Marriage Duration and Premarital Cohabitation

Evaluating the Length of Marriage and Its Impact on Spousal Support for a Medically Incapacitated Spouse

In California family law, the duration of the marriage plays a significant role in determining spousal support, especially in cases where one spouse is unable to work due to a medical condition. Additionally, the factor of premarital cohabitation can also influence these decisions. This part of the blog will delve into how these aspects affect the entitlement, amount, and duration of spousal support.

1. Influence of Marriage Duration on Spousal Support

  • Short vs. Long-Term Marriages: California law distinguishes between short-term (under 10 years) and long-term (over 10 years) marriages. This distinction is crucial in spousal support considerations, particularly when one spouse is medically incapacitated.

Example: In a marriage of 6 years where one spouse becomes unable to work due to illness, the duration of spousal support is typically half the length of the marriage, barring other significant factors.

  • Long-Term Marriage Considerations: For marriages that lasted longer than 10 years, the court does not set a definitive duration for spousal support. The support could continue until a significant change in circumstances, or until the court deems it no longer necessary.

Example: If a spouse becomes ill after a 15-year marriage, the court may award spousal support without a predetermined end date, subject to periodic reviews.

2. Impact of a Spouse’s Medical Condition in Long-Term Marriages

  • Greater Support Consideration: In long-term marriages, if a spouse’s ability to work is compromised due to illness, the court may consider providing more extended support to ensure the sick spouse’s needs are met.

Example: After a 20-year marriage, if one spouse is diagnosed with a chronic illness that prevents working, the court might order indefinite spousal support, considering the illness’s impact on earning capacity.

3. Role of Premarital Cohabitation

  • Consideration in Support Calculations: California courts may consider the period of premarital cohabitation when determining spousal support, especially if the couple’s financial lives were intermingled during this period.

Example: If a couple lived together for 3 years before marrying and stayed married for 7 years, the court might treat it as a 10-year relationship for the purpose of calculating spousal support.

  • Cohabitation as Part of Marital Lifestyle: The time spent living together before the marriage can be seen as part of the marital lifestyle, influencing the support amount and duration.

Example: A couple’s standard of living established during two years of cohabitation prior to their 8-year marriage could be considered in support determinations, potentially leading to longer or higher support.

4. Legal Assistance in Complex Situations

  • Navigating Unique Scenarios: Each divorce case is unique, and the presence of a medical condition combined with the marriage’s length can create complex situations requiring careful legal navigation.
  • Seeking Professional Advice: It’s advisable for individuals in such situations to seek legal counsel to understand their rights and the potential implications fully.



The length of the marriage and premarital cohabitation are pivotal factors in determining spousal support in California, especially when one spouse cannot work due to a medical condition. These factors influence both the duration and amount of support, highlighting the need for a nuanced understanding of each case.

For individuals facing these complex family law issues, The Mines Law Firm offers professional legal guidance and representation to ensure that your rights and needs are adequately addressed.


Disclaimer: This flyer is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific legal guidance on your case, please contact The Mines Law Firm for representation.