There Are Many Types of Alimony in Florida, Permanent Alimony is Just One of Them
When the topic of divorce arises, you can usually find one half of the unhappily betrothed cowering in a corner visualizing his or her descent into the slums a la Goddard Bolt in Mel Brooks’ classic, “Life Stinks”. It’s no wonder. Divorce has long been associated with the idea that the party bringing in the family bacon will be raked over the coals, forced to work twice as hard for the sole purpose of paying his or her former soul mate permanent alimony. Throw in a few expletives and something along the lines of, “I’m here breaking my back while that good for nothing gold digger is sitting around on his/her fat ass, sipping Dom, deciding what interior to choose for a brand new 7 series… all on my friggin dime,” and the scenario becomes eerily familiar. Given the recent firestorm over SB 718, which would have put an end to permanent alimony had Governor Scott not put the last minute kibosh on it, it seems apropos to give all of you inquiring minds out there a little glimpse into what an award of permanent spousal support in Florida really means.
Permanent Alimony in Florida
It must first be noted that the societal landscape has shifted since the nascence of alimony, specifically as it relates to permanent alimony. The nuclear family, in its original capacity, is an antiquated concept. The traditional notion of the husband, as sole wage earner, coming home to his barefoot and pregnant (and often uneducated) “old lady” is now a rarity. While the two primary elements to be considered when determining an award of alimony are the needs of one spouse for the funds and the ability of the other spouse to provide the same, the court has to apply certain criteria in establishing a party’s need to begin with. Included in this analysis are factors such as the party’s age, health, education and earning ability. This formula is stringently applied and the court is required to provide written findings as to each, even when the parties stipulate that permanent alimony is appropriate.
A common misconception regarding this form of support is that it is used to divide future income to establish financial equality between the parties. However, the court has found the purpose of permanent alimony is current necessary support rather than the accumulation of capital and that a simple disparity in income will not support such an award. In fact, an award of this type is only proper when it has been found that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable. Moreover, permanent alimony has found to be improper when there is a lack of evidence of the payee’s permanent inability to become self supporting. Even the semantics of the term breeds confusion as this award may indeed be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship in accordance with Florida statute, a topic to be explored in the next post. Despite all of this, courtesy of Governor Scott’s veto, permanent alimony is still available and frequently awarded when the right facts are presented to the court in a light favorable to the payee.