The concept of permanent alimony is a frightening proposition for many breadwinning spouses who are getting divorced from a long time spouse. In fact, it can be a reason or deterrent for people filing for divorce, who have been the higher earning spouse in a marriage. Permanent alimony in Florida is a rebuttable presumption in divorces for marriages when the spouses have been married more than 17 years, which means that the court is more likely than not, assume that in cases where two spouses have been married for at least 17 years, that the spouse that has earned less or stayed home may be entitled to support for the remainder of his or her life, if the spouse can show that they have a need for alimony. What it does NOT mean is that if you are married for 17 years that a spouse is entitled to alimony, regardless of the facts and circumstances.
In determining whether to award alimony, the court must first consider if the party requesting shows a need for alimony, after considering not only the incomes of the parties, but also in how the debt and assets from the marriage are being divided between the parties. If the court does find that one spouse has a need for alimony, the court next examines whether the higher paid spouse has the ability to pay alimony, considering their income, expenses, and also the division of assets and liabilities in the marriage.
If the court finds that there is a need and ability to pay, next the court will examine the statutory factors to determine an alimony amount, which include:
· The standard of living established during the marriage
· The duration of the marriage
· The age of each spouse
· The physical and emotional state of each spouse
· The financial resources of each spouse
· The earning potential, education level, vocational skill and employability of each spouse
· The contribution of each party to the marriage including homemaking, child care, education and career building
· Infidelity or waste caused by a spouse can also be a factor in arriving at an alimony award.
In our experience, few cases qualify for an award of permanent alimony in our current society, as both spouses typically have to work throughout the marriage in order for the family to make its financial obligations, and many courts are reluctant to make family law orders that endure for the rest of parties’ lives. In addition, courts are also not likely to leave a spouse in financial despair. In many cases, when the marriage is dissolving, the attorney works diligently with the client to determine what the financial forecast looks like post-divorce, and in many cases, will identify if a spouse should request alimony or if they would be entitled based on the factors and case law. When representing a higher paying spouse, identifying how to lessen the risk or exposure to permanent alimony is essential, and using various strategies to provide a fair settlement and reducing alimony both in amount and term are options to consider. Permanent alimony in many instances can be a huge financial savior to the receiving spouse, and also an incredible financial burden to a paying spouse, so having your case evaluated for the likelihood of your success in either receiving or avoiding permanent alimony is important to your financial health post-divorce.