Some areas of the law are “black and white” in that based upon a prescribed set of facts, you knew exactly where you stood. Some areas are “gray”, which is especially true in the context of a divorce case, where the family court judge presiding over the case has a wide range of discretion . This was never more true than when dealing with the issue of alimony.
Alimony was always the “wild card” in a divorce case. If the entitlement to alimony was apparent, the recipient never really knew what to expect as to how long the financial assistance would continue, nor did the obligor really know what their exposure would be to pay the obligation. That has all changed now, with the enactment of Florida Statute 61.08, effective July 1, 2010.
The Florida legislature has now categorized marriages into three types, short term; moderate-term; and long term marriage, all of which are determined by the length of the marriage.
A short term marriage is one in which the duration is less than 7 years; a moderate-term marriage is from 7 years but less than 17 years in duration; and a long term marriage is one which exceeds 17 years duration. The time period is measured from the date of the marriage to the date of filing the dissolution of marriage action.
The length of the marriage is important, since it becomes the determining factor in the type of alimony to be paid and received. For example, once you fall into a long term marriage bracket, the presumption exists for the payment of permanent alimony, the amount of which would continue to be measured by the needs of the recipient, balanced against the financial ability of the obligor to meet those needs. Although there is only a presumption in favor of permanent alimony, rather than a directive, that presumption may be difficult to overcome.
What about the other two categories, short term and moderate-term marriages? What is the relationship between alimony and these types of marriages? The Florida legislature, in Chapter 61.08, has defined four types of alimony, which are bridge-the-gap; rehabilitative; durational; and permanent.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is generally reserved for those falling within a short term marriage, and is utilized to assist one in making the transition from being married to being single. The length of the award cannot exceed two years.
An award of rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self support. This is to either redevelop previous skills or for receiving the training to acquire new skills. There must be a specific plan in place to achieve these objectives.
Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent alimony is not appropriate, and it may not exceed the length of the marriage.
By having these objective standards in place, the subject matter of alimony is now approaching the “black and white” zone of the law.