There are few words that send shivers down the back of a higher earning spouse than “permanent alimony.” In Florida, Fla. Stat. 61.08, states after a couple has been married for seventeen (17) years, there is a rebuttal presumption that permanent alimony should be established to protect the lower earning spouse from financial ruin after a divorce. But it is important to understand what the provision really means by taking it in parts.
First, Fla. Stat. 61.08 has many components all regarding alimony including:
- how a court determines an amount of alimony
- how the length of a marriage will impact the length of term of alimony
- the various types of alimony available for a lower paying spouse to request
- what factors the court should consider in awarding alimony and how much should be paid
- when alimony should be modified, changed, or terminated
When a judge is considering alimony, one of the first considerations is how long the parties have been married. While seventeen (17) years is the “threshhold” that the Statute refers to, this is not a hard and fast rule. The age of the parties, employability of each spouse, and financial arrangments and circumstances in totality will be considered. Therefore, if you have been married for sixteen (16) years, and your spouse became permanently disabled during the marriage, then it may possible that a divorce under 17 years could result in a permanent alimony consideration. The length of the marriage and the financial independence of each party is crucial in a legal determination.
So that does that mean that once you are married for seventeen (17) years, that you have to pay alimony forever? Absolutely not! Every case is different. Fla. Stat. 61.08 provides the court with a bareboned legal framework for determining the outcome of your case, but discussing your facts and circumstances with an experienced, family law attorney is essential. The family law team at Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A., is extremely knowledgeable about not only the provisions of the Statute, but also the current legal trends in the Northeast Florida area, as well as the relevant case law to advise you how to best plan your case strategy. As with any long term living situation, many different events, factors, and circumstances are going to present themselves over time. Talking with an expert in the family law team at Wood, Atter, & Wolf, P.A. will not only give you information about possible outcomes for your situation but also strategies to reduce your risk of paying permanent alimony.
Second, once the court determines that there is a rebuttal presumption of permanent alimony, now it is your opportunity to challenge that by presenting evidence that either you do not have the ability to pay, or the other spouse does not actually need alimony. This is accomplished by demonstrating that your spouse has the ability to earn enough income to support themselves without your assistance, or that even though, as the higher earning spouse, you have assumed signficant debt and liabilities that once paid leave you without the means to pay alimony, and also pay your own living expenses.
Third, preparation and the collection of evidence is key to a successful alimony avoidance case. Retaining an attorney with the required experience and knowledge of available resources and legal arguments will ensure that you are successful in mitigating your alimony risk, and preparing for a secure financial future.