Family law is full of various rules, but few of them are completely black-and-white. The law recognizes that each family in a family law case is unique, and a just outcome should reflect that. That’s why having a skilled South Florida family law attorney is so important. Your experienced attorney will have that knowledge of all of family law’s nuances and gray areas that non-lawyers don’t, and know how to use them to your best advantage.
Very recently, this blog covered the issue of alimony and its relationship to the length of the marriage. That time, the wife was seeking permanent alimony after having been married for less than 13 years, or a marriage of “moderate duration.” (Florida law says marriages of seven years or less are “short term,” marriages lasting more than seven years but less than 17 years are “moderate” in duration and marriages of 17 years or more are “long term.”)
In law, including alimony law, there are “presumptions.” These are default positions that will be the final outcomes in most cases, but not in all of them. You can overcome a presumption if you have enough of the right evidence to do what’s called “rebut” the presumption.
The appeals court in that case said that the wife was not entitled to permanent alimony. The law’s presumption dictated that the wife receive something other than permanent alimony, and she didn’t have the evidence she needed to rebut, or overcome, that presumption.
So, what does a situation that would overcome the presumption look like?
Let’s take a look at one instance where a rebuttal of the presumption was the outcome. In this Santa Rosa County case where the wife received permanent alimony, the marriage’s duration was 16 years and 11 months. Obviously, that’s very, very close to the 17-year cutoff for long-term marriages, but is technically short of that threshold.
Keep in mind, though, that having proof that your marriage is close to the “long-term” threshold may not, by itself, be enough. In 2005, a Miami-Dade wife, C.W., sought permanent alimony based on her marriage of 15½ years. The court concluded that the wife, who was only 37 and in good physical and mental condition, was capable of eventually becoming self- sufficient. Because she was capable of achieving self-sufficiency and her marriage was, technically, of moderate duration, she was entitled to rehabilitative alimony, but not permanent alimony.
So, what made that Santa Rose County case different? There were several facts that contributed to the outcome in favor of permanent alimony. For one thing, the marriage was just one month shy of 17 years. A marriage one month short of 17 years was a significantly different circumstance than one that was a year or a year and a half short.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, C.J. (the Santa Rose County wife) had “competent, substantial” proof that, although she was only 53 years old, she had serious health problems so substantial as to prevent her from getting or keeping a job. In other words, the evidence in that more recent outcome showed that, unlike C.W. from Miami-Dade County, C.J. was not capable of becoming self-sufficient.
Each Florida family law case is different to one degree or another. Achieving success can, to an in important degree, be based on the ability to spot the differences (and similarities) and use them to your advantage. Count on the diligent South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. to take our many years of experience and give you that kind of powerful legal representation. Contact our attorneys to discuss your alimony issue online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.