California law considers marriages lasting ten years or more to be long-term
marriages. When long-term marriages end in divorce, the presumption is
that the higher earner will pay spousal support to the lower earner. The
longer the marriage, the longer the period of time that the support will
have to be paid. Usually, a support order in the long-term marriage context
will be in place until the death or either party, the remarriage of the
person receiving the support, or a further court order. Under certain
circumstances, modifications to support can be made. Retirement is one
such circumstance in which a person may seek to modify spousal support payments.
Spousal Support & Your Right to Retire
Pursuant to a fairly recent court case,
In re Marriage of Reynolds (1998), a California resident has the right to retire at the age of sixty-five.
This means that a California resident cannot be compelled to continue
working past that age simply to pay spousal support at the current level.
Thus, the supporting party’s change in circumstances (retirement)
may be sufficient to warrant a decrease in or termination of the support
The court will consider the following key elements, among others, when
deciding whether to modify a support order:
- Length of the marriage
- Marital standard of living
- The lower-earning spouse’s marketable skills
- Each party’s age and overall health
- Each spouse’s monthly income and expenses
Note that individuals who opt to retire early (before the age of 65) may
not be eligible for a modification on the basis of retirement.
Whether you can modify or terminate your existing obligation depends upon
the unique circumstances and facts of your case. If you are nearing retirement
and are seeking to modify or terminate your spousal support obligation,
we invite you to contact The Buncher Law Corporation to
make an appointment with an Orange County divorce lawyer. We would be happy to discuss your
case with you and advise you on how best to proceed.