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Permanent Alimony Remains “Alive and Well” in Florida

Though the Florida Legislature almost abrogated permanent alimony in Florida over the past several years, a recent decision from Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal affirms that permanent alimony remains “alive and well” in certain long-term marriages, in Florida. Florida Statute 61.08 (Florida’s alimony statute) defines a long- term marriage as a marriage that has a duration of seventeen (17) years or more. If a marriage is long-term, there remains a rebuttable presumption in favor of awarding the non-income earning spouse permanent alimony.

On October 13, 2016, the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a trial court’s denial of Wife’s request for permanent alimony, in favor of an award of durational alimony.  Berger v. Berger, 2016 WL 5940058 (Fla. 4th DCA, October 13, 2016). In Berger, the Husband and Wife had a long-term marriage lasting 18 years.  The Husband was a physician and primary income earner, and the Wife was a “stay at home mother” for nearly the entire marriage, but had a degree in social work. The trial court only awarded the Wife durational alimony for ten (10) years, rather than permanent alimony, reasoning that she “should” be able to obtain employment, as a teacher, within two (2) years.

On appeal, the Wife, in part, argued that the trial court erred in not awarding her permanent alimony, because the Final Judgment failed to reflect that the Court applied the rebuttable presumption that exists in favor of permanent alimony, pursuant to Florida Statute 61.08, in such a long-term marriage. The appellate court opined that the trial court’s findings were insufficient to rebut the presumption in favor of permanent alimony and further found that permanent alimony was appropriate and necessary, based upon the duration of the marriage, the earnings of the parties and the Wife’s educational background.

Despite the trending alimony reform movement and Senate Bill 668 being a “hot topic” in Florida, this case shows that permanent alimony remains alive and well in Florida, pending any further legislative action. The Board Certified expert family law attorneys at Sidweber and Weintraub, P.A. are specialists in dealing with alimony and other family law issues, and can provide qualified personalized legal advice as it relates to your particular matter.

For more information on issues pertaining to Florida family law, divorce, property distribution, modification, prenuptial agreements, child support, time sharing/custody and alimony cases, please call the Board Certified Attorneys at Sidweber and Weintraub, P.A., for a consultation.