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Florida Court Issues Instructive Decision in Durational Alimony Case

Recently, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District released an opinion in the case of Stark v. Stark. The case concerned whether or not the receiving spouse should have been entitled to durational alimony or permanent alimony. This case once again demonstrates the complexity of Florida alimony disputes. If you have any questions or concerns about alimony, please contact an experienced Central Florida alimony attorney for immediate legal assistance.

Durational Alimony or Permanent Alimony?

In Stark v. Stark, a trial court awarded the wife the following: $7000 per month of ‘bridge the gap’ alimony, to last eight months, $4900 per month of ‘durational alimony, to last nine years; and $100 per month of ‘permanent’ alimony, to last indefinitely. The wife challenged the decision on the grounds that the $4900 of durational alimony should have actually been awarded as permanent alimony. Upon review of the case, the Fifth District Court of Appeal agreed. The higher court reasoned that permanent alimony was more appropriate in this case because:

  • The marriage was “long-term”;
  • The husband was always the primary breadwinner;
  • The wife stayed at home to care for the couple’s children throughout their marriage; and
  • The couple was now both in their mid-50s.

Finally, the Court of Appeals noted that, under Florida law, awarding durational alimony is only appropriate for cases involving ‘long term’ marriages if there is unlikely to be a need for spousal support on a permanent basis. The court determined that there was not sufficient evidence in this case to support a finding that the wife would not need ‘permanent’ support. Many alimony cases can become extremely complicated, and different types of alimony can be awarded.

The Types of Alimony

The goal of alimony is to help the receiving spouse become self sufficient. Under Florida law, either spouse could potentially be entitled to alimony. Ultimately, alimony awards are extremely fact specific, however there a generally five different types of alimony:

  • Bridge the gap: This type of alimony is meant to cover the transition period following the divorce. Bridge the gap alimony awards will always be short term, often for less than one year.
  • Durational: Sometimes courts will determine that a spouse needs alimony support beyond the transition period, but not permanently. Durational alimony will never last longer than the actual marriage lasted.
  • Permanent: This will be awarded in cases where the court determines that the financial conditions of one spouse has been forever altered by the marriage. While permanent alimony is scheduled to last indefinitely, it can be modified by the court if there is a ‘substantial change in circumstances’ for either party.
  • Rehabilitative: This could be awarded on a case by case basis if one spouse presents evidence that they will use the additional funds to pursue some form of approved financial rehabilitation. For example, a spouse that has been out of the workforce may be able to get this type of alimony to enroll in classes or job training.
  • Lump sum: Finally, in some cases, a divorcing couple may decide to reach a settlement agreement that includes a single up front alimony payment.

Need Legal Advice?

At the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. our experienced team can help. If you are involved in a dispute over alimony obligations, please contact our Orlando office today at 407-521-7171 to schedule a review of your case. We proudly serve family law clients throughout Central Florida.

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