When a Spouse from a Long-Term Marriage Is (and Is Not) Entitled to Permanent Alimony in Florida

The law is full of multisyllabic words that sound almost like a foreign language to most any lay person. However, within all of that “legalese” can sometimes be found some rules or standards of law that can make all the difference between success and failure in your case. Family law is no exception. While there’s no reason why you, as a lay person, should know what a “rebuttable presumption” is, it is something that can make all the difference between receiving an award of permanent alimony and receiving an award of alimony that lasts only a few years. All of this just goes to show that your family law case needs the skill and knowledge of an experienced South Florida family law attorney.

As an example, take the case of E.G. and R.G. The pair had been together for what Florida law defines as a “long-term” marriage. In Florida, a marriage of less than 7 years is deemed to be a “short-term” marriage, 7-17 years is a medium-term marriage and more than 17 years is long-term. These distinctions can matter a great deal when it comes to divorce issues like alimony. For example, if your marriage meets Florida law’s definition of a long-term marriage, and you are the spouse entitled to receive alimony, then the law says that there is a “rebuttable presumption” that you are entitled to permanent alimony.

So, what does that “rebuttable presumption” language mean? Unlike most situations (where a contested topic is considered not proven until one party presents sufficient evidence to prove it), a topic that is the subject of a rebuttable presumption is considered to be true until the opposing party proves that it isn’t.

How does that work in a divorce case involving alimony? Let’s look at E.G .and R.G.’s case. E.G., the wife, had presented sufficient evidence to the court to demonstrate that she and R.G. had been married for more than 17 years, meaning that theirs legally constituted a long-term marriage. That, in turn, triggered the rebuttable presumption. So, in other words, it was presumed that the wife was entitled to receive permanent alimony until the husband provided the court with enough proof to establish that permanent alimony was not proper.

Despite the evidence of a long-term marriage, the trial judge awarded the wife only three years of durational alimony. This must have meant that the husband provided strong evidence against awarding permanent alimony, right? No, according to the appeals court. In fact, the appeals court found that the surrounding proof favored the wife’s position. The evidence indicated that E.G. had sacrificed her career to serve as the primary caregiver parent raising the couple’s children. The evidence also indicated that, even with imputing income to the wife, a large disparity still existed between the husband’s income and the wife’s income. These things should have favored awarding permanent alimony, not denying it.

The appeals court noted that there were certain considerations that placed the wife in a stronger financial position. These, however, did not rebut the presumption in favor of permanent alimony. These facts, according to the appeals court, were things that could warrant awarding a lower monthly amount of alimony, but not denying the wife permanent alimony.

Whether your issue is alimony, child support, child custody or some other topic, reach out to the diligent South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have been providing clients with thoughtful advice and effective representation for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Florida Court Rules that a Husband Who Lost His Job Was Entitled to an Extra 10 Months of Retroactivity on His Alimony Modification, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Nov. 21, 2018

How to Go About Seeking a Modification Order in Florida Increasing the Amount of Alimony You’re Receiving, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 26, 2018

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