Understanding alimony: Permanent and durational awards

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While some states have revised their family law statutes to exclude permanent alimony awards, Florida still recognizes and implements this long-term form of spousal support. However, adjustments made by the Florida legislature have added further qualifications for those who seek permanent alimony.

The length of a marriage plays a substantial role in whether a party has a right to claim a permanent alimony award. Under current law, the court separates unions into three categories: short-term (less than seven years), moderate-term (between seven and 17 years) and long-term (more than 17 years).

While the dissolution of a long-term marriage does not entitle a party to receive ongoing spousal support, the law does not require the same degree of evidence to justify this alimony award that it does for moderate-term and short-term marriages. In 2011, the Florida legislature clarified this law, stating that permanent alimony would only be awarded after a short-term marriage if the claimant provided “clear and convincing evidence.” Meanwhile, the court will only grant permanent alimony after a short-term marriage under “exceptional circumstances,” the law states.

Often, if determining factors including income and standard of living make spousal support necessary or appropriate, the court may find that durational alimony – which involves regular payments over a set period of time – is more suitable for short- and moderate-term unions. Whatever the length of the marriage in question, though, the court is legally required to find that “no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties,” before granting lifetime spousal support.

Once granted, permanent alimony payments may be modified or voided if the recipient remarries or is otherwise supported by another individual they live with, if the financial standing of either party changes dramatically, or if either individual dies.

To determine the right course of action in your divorce settlement, consult an experienced Miami divorce lawyer. Scott A. Ferris, Esq. is an attentive and determined Miami family attorney who can help you pursue or dispute an alimony claim.

This article is part of an ongoing series on alimony law.