Fla Stat. §61.08(4) provides statutory guidelines for Florida courts to consider when evaluating importance of the duration of a marriage as a factor for alimony consideration. In order to categorize the duration of marriages, courts look from the date the marriage began until the date one of the spouses filed for dissolution of marriage. According to the statute, short term marriages are marriages under seven (7) years, and long term marriages are all marriages that last longer than seventeen (17) years. However, there is a “gray area” in the 10-year gap between these years. The marriages falling between the seven (7) to seventeen (17) year marriage lengths are known as marriages of “moderate duration.”
Categorizing the duration of a marriage is important. The court looks to a multitude of factors, found in Fla. Stat. §61.08 (2)(a-j), when considering the amount and the duration of an alimony award. A marriage categorized as a marriage of moderate duration is particularly important when considering an award of permanent alimony.
If a marriage is a long term marriage, as defined in the statutes, the marriage has with it a presumption in favor of a permanent alimony award. If after the court considers all other alimony factors and finds that no other alimony type would be proper, permanent alimony can be awarded. Whereas, a short term marriage would absolutely not have that same presumption. For a permanent alimony award in a short term marriage the court would have to find that exceptional circumstances exist to support such an award. Whereas, a moderate term marriage is open to a permanent alimony award also, but a higher standard of proof is necessary when awarding permanent alimony in cases of moderate duration marriages. Clear and convincing evidence as to the alimony factors must be presented to the court to prove that the receiving spouse is entitled to alimony.
Having knowledge about the factors the court considers when awarding alimony is essential when preparing for trial. It is of the utmost importance to understand both the statutory considerations and the evidentiary information that would be useful to the court in making the alimony determination. There have been many shifts in the judiciary regarding the appropriateness of awarding permanent alimony. While permanent alimony is given greater weight in a marriage of long duration, it is important to know that it is possible to receive a permanent alimony award in a marriage of moderate duration.
If you need assistance with an alimony claim in the midst of your divorce, contact Wood, Atter & Wolf, P.A. to schedule a consultation with one of our family law attorneys.