How Long Does a Florida Marriage Need to Last for a Spouse to Receive “Permanent” Alimony?
Alimony is a complex area of Florida law. A court is required to look at a number of factors when determining the appropriate type and length of an alimony award. One key factor is the length of the marriage itself. Florida classifies marriages as either short, medium, or long-term. In the case of a long-term marriage, it is generally easier for a spouse to receive permanent alimony than in the case of a moderate or short-term marriage.
Florida Appeals Court: Wife’s Request Falls One Month Short of Threshold
So what exactly is considered a “long-term marriage”? By law, if the marriage lasted at least 17 years from the date of marriage until the date either spouse filed for divorce, there is a “rebuttable presumption” that the marriage was long-term. As the presumption is rebuttable, a spouse may submit evidence to convince a judge that a marriage of less than 17 years should be treated as long-term, but the court is not required to make such a finding.
Indeed, even if a marriage falls just short of the 17-year mark, a court is well within its discretion to still consider it just a moderate-term marriage. This actually occurred in a recent Florida divorce case, Giles v. Giles. Here, a husband and wife were married for 16 years and 11 months before the husband filed for divorce. In response, the wife filed a counter-petition, requested the court treat the marriage as long-term, and award her permanent alimony. The judge ultimately declined to do so but nevertheless awarded the wife rehabilitative and durational alimony.
The wife appealed, renewing her argument in favor of a finding of long-term marriage with permanent alimony. The Florida Second District Court of Appeal rejected this argument. The appeals court noted that there is little guidance in Florida law explaining just how a spouse can “rebut” a presumption of a moderate or long-term marriage. But given the wife only offered the fact that she was married just one month shy of the 17-year mark, as well as her insistence that each spouse played a “traditional” role in the marriage, the Second District said this was insufficient to rebut the statutory presumption. Furthermore, since the marriage was properly classified as moderate-term, the wife had to offer “clear and convincing evidence” that she was entitled to permanent alimony, which she failed to do.
That said, the Second District did agree with the wife that the trial court’s award of rehabilitative and durational alimony was insufficient. For one thing, the wife never offered a “rehabilitative plan,” which is typically required before a court award rehabilitative alimony. More to the point, the appeals court said there was “little evidence to support the amounts of alimony awarded” by the trial court. A new hearing on this issue was therefore necessary.
Contact a Florida Alimony Lawyer Today
Alimony is often one of the most difficult issues to resolve in a Florida divorce case. If you need legal advice in connection with alimony, or any family law issue, the Boca Raton divorce attorneys at WiseLieberman, PLLC, can help. Contact us today at 561-488-7788 to schedule a consultation.