Does the Length of My Marriage Automatically Entitle Me to Alimony?
A Florida judge will not automatically grant a request for alimony in a divorce case. However, when a spouse seeks alimony following the breakdown of a “long-term marriage,” i.e., a marriage that lasted 17 years or more, there is a legally “rebuttable presumption” in favor of an award of permanent alimony. This presumption can be overcome if the judge finds that based on the facts of a given case, the spouse seeking alimony has failed to demonstrate sufficient financial need or the other spouse’s ability to pay.
Wife’s Trust Income “Rebuts” Presumption in Favor of Permanent Alimony
A recent decision from the Florida Third District Court of Appeals, Weininger v. Weininger, provides an example of a case where a judge declined to award alimony in spite of the long-term marriage presumption. The husband and wife in this case were married for roughly 32 years. During the marriage, the husband worked as a pilot. The wife worked “sporadically” in part-time jobs, but largely stayed home to raise the couple’s children.
The divorce was prompted by the husband’s extramarital affair. At a subsequent trial, the wife requested permanent alimony. The wife said she was forced to spend her personal funds to compensate for the husband’s “dissipation” of marital assets on his mistress. She also pointed to the duration of the marriage as justification for permanent alimony.
The husband argued alimony was not justified in this case. He said the wife had sufficient assets of her own, notably access to a multi-million dollar trust established with the proceeds from a lawsuit related to the death of the wife’s father. To the extent the wife claimed she was forced to spend these personal funds, it was to support the couple’s now-adult children and spend “more than reasonably required to maintain the marital home.”
The trial judge agreed that the wife “was financially able to meet her needs and necessities,” and denied her request for alimony. The Third District upheld this part of the judge’s final divorce judgment. The appeals court explained the normal presumption in favor of alimony was rebutted by the fact the wife “had significant income” from her trust and that she was “able bodied, educated, and capable of working.” Additionally, the husband “lacked the ability to pay” any amount of permanent alimony, given that he was forced to retire from his job as an airline pilot.
The wife maintained that the income from the trust was not enough to meet her needs given there were certain restrictions on those funds, and she actually needed to borrow money from the trust to meet her expenses during the divorce. The Third District was not sympathetic to this argument because the wife “failed to provide any supporting documents and her testimony was inconsistent and incomplete” on this point. Indeed, the trial judge thought the wife’s testimony lacked credibility, and the appeals court saw no reason to challenge that assessment.
Speak with a Florida Divorce Attorney Today
You should never walk into any divorce assuming that you are “entitled” to alimony. A judge can, and will, expect you to support your request with credible financial records. If you need advice or assistance from an experienced Boca Raton alimony lawyer, contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 today to schedule a consultation.