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When can a judge award permanent alimony?

Every Miami resident is unique. These individual differences mean that what works for one person may not work for another. This is readily apparent in family law cases, as each case involves different circumstances that can lead to a different application of the law.

For instance, law week this blog discussed the court's authority to award short-term alimony after a couple divorces. There are different kinds of short-term alimony that can provide a bridge from the standard of living enjoyed by the spouses during the marriage, to the post-divorce standard of living of both individuals.

The court is not limited to awarding only short-term alimony, however, as Florida law also authorizes judges to award permanent alimony in certain cases. The award of permanent alimony, as with short-term alimony, is intended to address the needs of an individual who lacks the financial ability to meet those needs.

The statute treats an award of permanent alimony differently depending upon how long the couple was married. Generally speaking, a marriage that existed for a long duration requires less of a showing for the judge to award permanent alimony than a marriage of moderate or short duration. If the marriage was of moderate duration, there must be clear and convincing evidence showing the award is proper, which is a higher legal standard. Permanent alimony can be awarded after a marriage of short duration only if there are exceptional circumstances present, which is an even higher standard.

The court will also consider the same general factors it would consider in addressing a request for short-term alimony, such as the needs of the individuals and their financial circumstances. The court also has to find that no other type of alimony is fair and reasonable in order to award permanent alimony.

Accordingly, the court can impose a legal obligation on a spouse to pay alimony permanently, or at least until death or remarriage of the other spouse. However, certain circumstances must be present before the judge will make such an award, as opposed to ordering short-term alimony.

Source: Florida Legislature, "Alimony," accessed on Nov. 14, 2015

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