Florida Divorce Judge’s Decision Reversed For Awarding Permanent Periodic Alimony to South Florida Wife Where Rehabilitative Alimony was More Appropriate

In Vigo v. Vigo, the Florida marital and family law court awarded the wife permanent periodic alimony in the amount of $5,500 per month. The Third District Court of Appeals, located south of Broward County, reversed the Florida Divorce Judge Maxine Cohen Lando’s decision to award the wife permanent periodic alimony because under Florida law, the wife is not a candidate for permanent periodic alimony.

Permanent periodic alimony is generally reserved for long term marriages, or for marriages where a major inequity is created by the dissolution. This type of alimony is used to maintain the lifestyle that the parties were accustomed to during the duration of the marriage. When determining whether permanent periodic alimony is appropriate, the court also considers the need of the party requesting alimony and the ability of the party who is obligated to pay.

In this case, need turned on whether the Wife would be able to work after the divorce. During the seven and one half year marriage, the Wife worked for three and a half years as a housekeeper and for one year operating her own used car business. In 2005, when she stopped working, the Husband supported her. The evidence on record reflected that the Wife had “serious chronic health problems;” however, the appellate court found that she lived a rather active lifestyle, attending church for three hours at a time, shopping, taking her dog to the park for two hours a day, and visiting the beauty salon. The appellate court found that her ailments would not prevent her from obtaining a sedentary job.

Furthermore, the record indicated that the Wife was capable of being trained. The evidence in support of this was that the Wife, not a native English speaker, took English classes, passed the GED in English and passed the United States Naturalization test in English. Additionally, the Wife had worked as a housekeeper, nurse assistant, seamstress, an independent sales consultant, a masseuse and she has owned her own business. After careful review of the record, the appellate court determined that the Wife was capable of earning approximately $28,000 per year after taking a year of English courses and acquiring either an Associates Degree or a Certificate of Competency.

Based on the evidence presented at trial, the appellate court found that the trial court abused its discretion because this was a short term marriage. The court also found that the parties lived a modest lifestyle while married, the Wife had been awarded a $250,000 lump sum, no children were born of the marriage, the Wife was immediately employable or could be retrained over a three to four year period, and finally despite her health problems the Wife lived an active, healthy lifestyle. Thus, the Third District reversed the award and remanded for the court to consider an award of rehabilitative alimony instead.

Rehabilitative alimony is used to provide the recipient with money to eventually become self sufficient. To receive rehabilitative alimony the parties must establish a rehabilitative plan. A rehabilitative plan must be specific and should address the object of the rehabilitation, the cost of the plan, and the projected period necessary to establish the recipient’s self sufficiency.