Issues for Short-Term Marriages / by Cassandra Hearn

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No one wants to see their marriage end. This is true when a marriage lasted one year, or if the marriage lasted forty years. When parties have been married for a short time, there may be special considerations that need to be observed during a divorce.

In general, most property that is acquired during marriage is marital property. California is a community property state, which means marital property is divided equally between spouses at the time of the divorce. If the marriage has been very short, however, it is likely that not much marital property was acquired during the marriage. In such a case, it may not be worth the expense to divide the property. For example, any retirement accrued during the marriage is marital property. However, dividing a retirement account usually requires the preparation of a special order, which can be costly. The cost of the order may be more than half the value of the marital property in the retirement account. Accordingly, it would not be worth the expense to have the order prepared.

If the parties have had a child or children during their marriage, a parenting plan and child support will need to be prepared and entered. The parties’ children are likely to be quite young, and so the parties should be sensitive to the special needs of young children and attempt to craft a parenting schedule to evolve with the child’s needs. Some of the other issues when children are very young include daycare choices, future extracurricular activities, and school districts when the children become old enough. Note that the length of the parties’ marriage is not a factor in a best interest determination. Regardless of the length of the parties’ relationship, the focus is on the best interest of the child, not on the stability of the parties’ marriage.

Finally, spousal support is often heavily impacted by the length of the marriage. In a short term marriage, it is highly unlikely that either party will be awarded long term spousal support. The reason for this is that the marriage is too short for the parties to have developed the type of relationship that generally merits a long-term award of spousal support, i.e. where one party has supported the other in his or her career for years or stayed home with the parties’ children for years.

Even when parties have been married a short time, there are still important issues that require careful consideration. Call us today at (619) 800-0384 to discuss your options.