When Your Spouse Can Get Permanent Alimony After a Moderate-Duration Marriage in Florida (Hint: They Usually Can’t)

When you go through the divorce process and your spouse seeks alimony, you have several challenges. One of those is to avoid outcomes where your ex gets more alimony than they should, or gets it for a longer duration than Florida law says is appropriate. To help in making sure that your outcome is a fair one, get skilled legal representation from an experienced South Florida alimony attorney.

When it comes to the duration of alimony, the law has some pretty clear limitations on awarding permanent periodic alimony, which was on display in the case of B.P. and his wife, S.P. The couple married in 2003, separated in early 2014 and the husband filed for divorce in 2016. At trial, the judge concluded that the marriage was of moderate duration and that the wife was entitled to $6,912 per month in permanent periodic alimony, as that amount and duration was necessary “to maintain the standard of living to which” the wife was accustomed.

The husband successfully appealed the alimony ruling. As both the trial court and appeals court noted, B.P. and S.P.’s marriage was a “moderate-term” one under Florida law. (Florida law has created three different levels of marital duration that judges use in making alimony decisions. Those groupings are: “short-term,” which is seven years or less, “moderate-term,” which is more than seven years but less than 17 years, and “long-term,” which is 17 years or more. That duration period is measured as the period from the date of the marriage until the date of an approved filing for divorce.)

Permanent alimony is the legal “default position” for long-term marriages. The law says judges should only award something other than permanent alimony in a long-term marriage situation if there are specific reasons why permanent alimony would be inappropriate.

For moderate-term marriages, however, the law dictates something different. In this scenario, permanent alimony is the proper resolution “if such award is based upon clear and convincing evidence taking into consideration all the factors.” (Those factors are the ones listed in Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes.)

A moderate-duration marriage can permit an award of durational alimony

Generally, in moderate-term marriages, when the “evidence shows that one spouse was in good health and had job skills, … the fact that the other spouse’s income substantially exceeds the other’s either now or previously when they were both employed, does not justify an award of permanent alimony.” That was the situation with this couple. The husband made far more money than the wife (who was earning only about $31,000 when the pair wed.)

The wife, however, “was physically and mentally healthy and has potential in gaining fruitful employment.” Typically, a spouse in a moderate-term marriage is only going to receive permanent alimony if she has a “permanent inability … to become self-sustaining.” That wasn’t the circumstance for S.P., so she was not entitled to permanent alimony.

Instead, S.P. was entitled to receive durational alimony. Durational alimony, as the appeals court explained, may be the proper outcome “when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate.” Durational alimony is designed to give the recipient spouse “economic assistance for a set period of time” and may be awarded in cases of either short-term or moderate-term marriages.

Durational alimony can extend for a period of several years, as the cap on a durational alimony’s award period only says that it cannot exceed the length of the marriage.

Whether you are a spouse seeking alimony or litigating against the alimony award your ex is seeking, count on the skilled family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. for the legal representation you need. We have the knowledge and experience necessary to get results. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.