How Do Florida Courts Decide When to Award Periodic or Durational Alimony?
There are a number of things a Florida court takes into account when deciding whether and how to award alimony in a divorce case. Florida law actually provides for several different categories of alimony. For example, a judge may award periodic permanent alimony–which requires one spouse to pay the other a monthly sum for an indefinite period of time–or durational alimony, which is only paid for a “set period of time.”
Judge Failed to Justify Decision to Depart from Presumption in Favor of Permanent Alimony
By law, durational alimony is awarded when the court determines that permanent alimony would be “inappropriate.” But the law also provides for a “rebuttable presumption” in favor of permanent periodic alimony for “long-term” marriages, which are normally defined as marriages that lasted at least 17 years (calculated from the date of marriage to when either spouse filed for divorce).
In other words, if a couple was married for 20 years before divorce proceedings began, and a court determines one spouse is entitled to alimony, then the award should be for permanent periodic alimony unless the judge–applying all of the necessary legal factors–determines durational alimony is more appropriate.
If the judge does not apply these factors, an appeals court may step in. This happened just recently in a Florida divorce case, Gilliland v. Gilliland, where the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial judge’s decision to award durational as opposed to periodic permanent alimony.
The parties in this case were married more than 17 years, which meant they were in a long-term marriage for purposes of Florida’s alimony law. The wife requested alimony. The judge concluded the wife was entitled to $1,150 per month from the husband, but that the award should be durational rather than permanent. The judge justified this decision on the grounds that the wife was “middle aged, in good health, and has the education and work experience to be self-supporting.”
But as the Fifth District explained, the trial court was required to make additional findings regarding the wife’s “ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.” The judge could not simply rely on the wife’s “age, good health, and current income” to make such findings. In other words, these factors standing by themselves were “insufficient to rebut the presumption that permanent periodic alimony is appropriate in a long-term marriage.” The appeals court therefore modified the trial judge’s divorce decree, thereby making the husband’s obligation to pay periodic alimony permanent rather than durational.
Speak with a Boca Raton Alimony Lawyer Today
When it comes to issues like alimony, there are a complicated set of laws and factors that need to be addressed. And as the case above illustrates, even experienced judges sometimes get the law wrong. That is why it is critical to work with a qualified Boca Raton divorce attorney. Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, today at 561-468-7788 if you need legal advice regarding alimony or any other divorce or family law issue. We offer a free initial consultation, so there is no obligation to sitting down and speaking with us.