Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner announced their split on Tuesday, June 30, one day after their 10th wedding anniversary. That milestone is significant symbolically, of course, but it also may have legal implications for their now-imminent divorce. According to California law, the 10-year mark in a marriage qualifies it as one of "long duration," and could affect spousal support.
"Essentially, if you've been married for a decade, then we do not want the lower-earning spouse to be left struggling or destitute," Jessica Levinson, professor of law at Loyola Law School L.A. explained to Us Weekly. "We believe that spouse has invested enough time and resources into the failed marriage that they should receive some additional protection."
That "additional protection" means that Garner, 43, could seek a bigger share of Affleck's reported $75 million. "Practically speaking, in California, if a marriage lasts less than 10 years, judges often award spousal support for half the length of the marriage," Levinson told Us. "By contrast, if a marriage lasts 10 years or more, judges can award alimony for as long as it's needed."
The reasoning, according to Levinson, is that, "in long-term marriages, the lower-earning spouse may be out of the work force for a longer period of time and/or may have sacrificed the option to advance his career for a longer period of time."
In the case of Garner and Affleck, 42, the A-listers tried to stagger their work schedules so someone could be around to care for their three kids, Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3. As Garner told reporters in March, "I've been home for a long time. It's my turn and I'm going to work this spring."
She added: "Ben is super busy and I'm super happy for him. I chose to stay home this year and just said, 'Go for it, babe. Do it all. Do Gone Girl, do Batman, do The Accountant. Do everything.'"
Of course, there are other factors to consider besides their careers. As Levinson told Us, "There are no automatic rules regarding the awarding of spousal support. A spouse does not automatically get spousal support for half of the length of the marriage for short-term marriages, and does not automatically get spousal support forever in long-term marriages."
Additionally, in the case of "long duration" unions, the judge "retains jurisdiction, and therefore control, over the case for an indefinite period of time." Simply put, Levinson said, "The judge retains power to implement changes to issues like spousal support and child custody if circumstances warrant such a change."
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