If A Couple Separate Long Before Divorce How Long Was The Marriage?

Under California law the marriage ended when the parties separated, but federal law looks at the date of divorce.

People ask this question of me often

Q: My wife and I have been living apart since the 4th year of our marriage. For legal purposes how long were we married—four years or ten?

A: If your date of separation (time when you and your wife were living separate and apart) began four years from the marriage date, than for state purposes you can get a divorce anytime and the length of the marriage will not change; it is four years. For federal law, however, the length of the marriage is measured from the date of marriage to the date of the divorce judgment. Why is this important? Because it can affect whether one spouse can claim derivative social security benefits and can get military pensions paid directly to them, among other things.

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