How Much Is Alimony Going To Cost After Such A Short Marriage?

Flip or Flop star Christina Anstead has officially filed for divorce after not even two years of marriage. Her separation from her husband, Ant Anstead, comes just 23 months after their December 2018 wedding. The couple has a son together, who is already playing a role in their divorce proceedings.

Beyond child custody and support, the couple has neatly avoided many factors that usually complicate a divorce, such as spousal support and division of assets. Since California is a community property state, any assets they acquired during their marriage must be split equally between them.

Both Ant and Christina work as creatives and star on HGTV shows, so they may have significant assets to divide, including royalties from their TV appearances. Luckily for them, their short marriage has kept these communal assets to a minimum. Even better for both, their short marriages may keep any court-ordered spousal support orders small.

The Purpose of Alimony

Spousal support, or alimony, is a court-ordered payment from a higher-earning partner to the lower-earning partner after a divorce or separation. Many couples have unbalanced incomes, with one partner stepping back from earning money to support the couple at home. Alimony as a legal concept is intended to help provide for that lower-earning person after they have otherwise lost financial support from their former partner.

Both men and women are eligible for alimony payments. Gender is not considered in the process – only respective incomes and earning potential. The goal is that neither partner is unfairly harmed in the divorce or left destitute. The alimony payment is not a punishment; it is a way to keep a divorce equitable despite financial sacrifices that may have been made.

What Courts Consider When Deciding Spousal Support

In some cases, alimony is determined by the couple that’s separating. If both parties signed a binding prenuptial agreement or can agree on a fair spousal support amount in mediation, the court may never need to get involved. However, if the couple does not agree, then spousal support will be determined by several factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage,
  • The age, physical and emotional health of both former spouses,
  • The current and potential earning power of both former spouses,
  • The couple’s standard of living while married, and
  • The ability of the paying spouse to financially support both themselves and their former spouse.

These factors affect whether spousal support will be awarded at all, how much it will be, and how long the payments will be mandated. Larger earning differentials will generally lead to higher alimony payments, while longer marriages increase the length of time for which the payments are ordered to continue.

Unlike child support, judges can exercise significant discretion when it comes to spousal support. California does not have binding laws surrounding when and how much alimony is required. Instead, the judge presiding over a divorce looks at each couple’s case individually and decides based on their circumstances.

Spousal support orders are open to modification, but only under specific conditions. If one or both partners experience a significant change of circumstances, the courts may agree that the current spousal support order is unfair. For example, if the paying partner’s income drops or the receiving partner is not attempting to support themselves, the court may reduce or drop the order entirely.

How Marriage Length Affects Spousal Support

Spousal support can be a short-term order, or it can last a lifetime. It depends on the marriage. Long-term marriages, defined as marriages longer than ten years, often lead to permanent alimony payments. The presumption is that the lower-earning partner has sacrificed much of their potential earning power and may never be able to reach their full career potential. Permanent alimony helps support that person in the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed.

Shorter marriages are less likely to involve life-long alimony payments. Any spousal support for unions of less than ten years is generally temporary and intended to support the lower-earning spouse until they have a stable income or remarry. This also helps protect the higher-earning spouse from a lifetime of payments for a marriage that lasted only a few years.

Current California law suggests that a spousal support order lasts for a “reasonable amount of time.” In most cases, this is recommended as half the length of the marriage. However, every judge has the discretion to change this length of time. In fact, particularly short marriages may not lead to spousal support orders at all. Marriages less than two years may only result in alimony if the lower-earning partner can make the case that their former partner was financially supporting them before marriage as well.

In the specific case of Ant and Christina Anstead, spousal support is extremely unlikely. There are four reasons for this:

  • The Anstead relationship only lasted three years in total, from dating to divorce.
  • Their marriage was also extremely short, at less than two years.
  • Both partners continued to work throughout their marriage.
  • Both partners presumably have relatively equal incomes and potential future earnings since they work in the same industry with similar levels of visibility.

In combination, it’s unlikely that any California judge would consider alimony payments necessary or worthwhile. Currently, neither of the Ansteads are requesting any spousal support, which seems like a wise move.

Alimony Isn’t Guaranteed

If you’re considering a divorce, it’s essential to understand that there’s no guarantee of alimony. Especially after short marriages, judges can decide against spousal support entirely. If you want to ensure that your divorce works out the way you want, you should immediately reach out to a qualified divorce attorney. Having the right legal support can be the difference between an equitable spousal support agreement or an order that puts you at a disadvantage. Whether you are in favor of an alimony order or not, your legal representation will fight for your best interests and hammer out an agreement that keeps your finances intact.

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