Unlike some states around the country, Florida law gives judges the power to award permanent alimony or spousal support in certain divorces. There is no bright line rule or formula to determine one’s entitlement to permanent alimony. Instead, judges must examine the facts of each divorce case. To fully understand how permanent alimony is treated in Florida, it may be helpful to review a few details about alimony in general.
Alimony or “spousal support” describes a court ordered payment from one spouse to another spouse after divorce (or sometimes while the divorce is pending). Note that alimony is separate and distinct from child support.
Generally speaking, Florida courts must make two preliminary findings prior to awarding any type of alimony. First, there must be a factual finding that the spouse requesting the alimony, “has a need” for it. Second, the judge must conclude that the other spouse has an “ability to pay” alimony. See section 61.08)(2), Fla. Stat. Florida recognizes four types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. See section, 61.08 (1), Fla. Stat.
Once the judge determines that alimony is warranted, the next question to be answered is what type of alimony should be granted as well as the amount. Florida law requires judges to consider six factors to determine the specific type of alimony as well as the amount. The six factors include, but are not limited to: the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, the age of each party, the financial resources of each party (both marital and nonmarital assets), the earning capacity of each party, and each party’s contribution throughout the duration of the marriage See section 61.08 (2)(a-j), Fla. Stat.
As mentioned above permanent alimony is available under certain circumstances, and will not be granted in every divorce. It is important to highlight that, before a judge can order permanent alimony he or she must conclude that that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable. See section 61.08 (8), Fla. Stat. In other words, if it can be shown that the requesting spouse only needs alimony for a specific period of time, the judge may not award permanent alimony.
When evaluating whether permanent alimony is warranted, the length of the marriage is a very important factor. For those marriages that are considered “long term” (17 years or longer), Florida law imposes a presumption that any alimony award should be permanent in nature. See Hill v. Hooton, 776 So. 2d 1004 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001). This presumption however is rebuttable. Meaning, that the spouse opposing it may present evidence and/or argument against it.
On the other end of the spectrum, for short term marriages (7 years or less), there is a presumption against awarding permanent alimony. See Pearce v. Pearce, 43 So. 3d 95 (Fla. 3d DCA 2010). Similar to long term marriages, the presumption against it is also rebuttable.
Alimony in general is often a contentious issue in divorce cases. If you think you may be entitled to alimony it is important for you to know and understand your rights, because you will be strongly challenged. If you have questions regarding permanent alimony, or divorce in general you can call us at 954-990-9307 or send us a message by clicking HERE.