As we have discussed in previous blog posts, there are a number of different types of alimony, each aimed at meeting a different type of need. One of the newer categories of spousal support (alimony) in Florida is “durational alimony.” Created by 2010 revisions to the Florida Statutes, durational alimony in Florida is usually awarded to spouses ending a moderate term marriage. “Moderate term” is defined as greater than seven years in duration, but less than seventeen years.
Durational alimony may be the right choice when permanent periodic alimony is not appropriate under the spousal support statute, but when the lower-earning spouse will need consistent, ongoing support for a period of time. Durational alimony is intended to provide needed financial assistance for a limited period after a short- or moderate-term marriage when there is not a need for permanent support.
Florida courts have found that an award of durational alimony is inappropriate in a divorce following a longer-term marriage, when it is presumed that permanent periodic alimony is called for. (However, this presumption can be rebutted, if the party opposing permanent alimony can demonstrate under exceptional circumstances that the alimony recipient will not need permanent ongoing support.)
Courts have also clarified that durational alimony may not be paid for a period of time in excess of the length of the marriage; in many cases, durational alimony is awarded for a shorter length of time.
When is Durational Alimony Available?
As with other types of spousal support in Florida, a court can only award durational alimony after considering the factors in the statutory guidelines, especially a finding of need by the party requesting support, and a finding that the other spouse is able to pay.
Courts in Florida may consider factors such as adultery in determining an award of durational alimony. However, unless there is evidence that a spouse dissipated marital assets, a finding of adultery is not a valid reason to award one spouse a greater or lesser share of remaining marital assets.
As a general (but not ironclad) rule, when durational alimony is awarded in Florida, the duration of the payments is not subject to modification. The amount of payments may be modified if the person requesting the modification can demonstrate a substantial change of circumstances. In rare cases, despite the general rule, durational alimony may be terminated early if the person requesting termination can show facts supporting the termination. As noted above, those facts would have to show a real change of circumstances such that continuing the payments would be unjust.
Florida courts have also stated that a person receiving durational alimony has a right under state law to ask the court to extend payments. The court may grant an extension if the person requesting it can show through exceptional circumstances that there is an ongoing need for support.
What You Should Know About Durational Alimony in Florida
If you and your spouse can agree on an amount and duration of spousal support, the court will not have to decide this issue for you. There are many advantages to settlement, including the fact that you and your spouse are in control of the decision. Before agreeing on the issue of durational alimony, however, you should always consult with an experienced Florida alimony attorney to make sure you are not making a bargain that is unfair (and costly) to you.
As with other types of Florida spousal support, if you are asking your divorce court for durational alimony, or trying to avoid paying it, you must be prepared to document your position. Facts matter; courts are not supposed to order an amount of durational alimony that is greater than the spouse requesting it needs.
Therefore, if you are asking for durational alimony, be prepared to support the need you are claiming with evidence. If you are being asked to pay durational alimony, you are going to want to present facts that show that your spouse's need is less than claimed, and/or that your ability to pay is less than your spouse is claiming.
There is a difference between the facts you know to be true, and the facts that the court in your case is taking into account. It is worth investing in a knowledgeable, experienced attorney who understands what the court needs to see and hear to make the most favorable decision in your case.
If you have questions about durational alimony in Florida or would like to discuss your situation, we invite you to get in contact with us at the Florida Divorce Law Group to schedule an in-person consultation.