What is permanent alimony and when is it appropriate?
In the state of Florida when two people are getting divorced and they have been married for longer than 14 years there is a presumption in favor of permanent alimony. Whenever a claim for permanent alimony is sought by a spouse and their divorce attorney the level of conflict in the case usually escalates due to the strong opposition that the other party will usually have against the idea of paying permanent spousal support.
There are several different types of alimony in Florida and the type of support that is appropriate for any case usually depends on factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial positions of the parties, and the ability for both people to support themselves after the marriage ends.
Currently, in marriages that last longer than 14 years, the courts will presume that permanent periodic alimony would be favored if the case also meets certain other criteria.
When will permanent alimony be appropriate?
First, the requesting spouse would need to show that they have a need for support and that the other party can pay. It is important to note that this analysis is subject to the standard of living established during the marriage. Many lawyers and their clients forget about this third part of the analysis and completely ignore the standard of living established during the marriage when they are preparing their arguments for court.
Permanent alimony becomes much more of a possibility in cases where the parties were married for a long time as defined by the statute, where one party substantially outearns the other, and where the lesser earning party made sacrifices of their own education and career opportunities in order to further the education and career opportunities of the higher earning party.
In cases such as these, the courts understand that it is going to be very difficult for the lesser earning spouse to ever reach an earning capacity where they will be able to support themselves as well as their spouse after the marriage. Thus, permanent alimony awards become appropriate.
So, if I have not been married that long I don’t have to worry about permanent alimony, right?
Permanent alimony is not only ordered in long-term cases but there are some special circumstances where permanent alimony could be awarded in even a very short-term marriage.
When researching appellate court case law in Florida for a trial on spousal support that we had a few years ago we came across a plentiful number of cases where the parties had only been married for two or three years, but one of the parties had developed a serious disability during that short marriage that impacted their ability to work and provide for themselves in the future. The case law is very clear that in situations such as this permanent alimony can be awarded even in a very short-term marriage. It is important to note that such a disability did not necessarily have to be a physical disability, but there were several cases where the disability was mental.
There are several strategies that must be employed in any divorce action where permanent alimony is being sought. Whether you are the petitioner or the respondent there is a set of tactical maneuvers that must be taken in the case in order to either increase or reduce exposure to permanent spousal support. These include the use of vocational experts in some cases who can examine a party and provide an assessment to the court of what that person’s earning capacity is now and will be in the future.
In other cases, it will be important to rely on medical experts and in some situations, forensic accounts are effective tools in the alimony litigation.
If you are going through a divorce and alimony is at issue, then contact our office today to discuss a strategy for your particular case.
Sean Smallwood is an Orlando divorce attorney for the law firm Sean Smallwood, Orlando Divorce & Family Law P.A. where he represents clients in all areas of family law and divorce. 100% of the practice is devoted to family law. As an attorney in Orlando, he has helped many families with a wide variety of family law cases including Divorce, Child Custody, Child Support, and many other issues.