Can a Spouse Get Permanent Alimony in a Short-Term Marriage?
In most circumstances, Florida law only awards permanent alimony in marriages that are moderate in length when a receiving spouse adequately demonstrates with convincing evidence that the award is appropriate. Section 61.08 of The 2017 Florida Statutes defines a moderate-term marriage as one that is greater than seven years but less than 17 years.
However, permanent alimony may be awarded in a short-term marriage — defined by Section 61.08 as a marriage with a duration of less than 7 years — if there are “written findings of exceptional circumstances”.
Florida case law sheds some light on what those exceptional circumstances might be.
Exceptional Circumstances That Have Led to Permanent Alimony in a Short-Term Marriage
Florida case law reveals that permanent alimony has been affirmed in cases where serious and debilitating medical conditions took place during the marriage. In the 2002 case of Reeves v. Reeves, 821 So.2d 333 (Fla. 5th DCA 2002), for example, Florida’s 5th District Courts of Appeal reversed the lower court’s denial of permanent alimony in a case where the wife cared for a handicapped child who was born during the marriage.
In later years, similar District Courts of Appeal holdings also reversed denials of permanent alimony based on debilitating medical conditions. For example, a wife’s back injury and ulcerative colitis in the case of Levy v. Levy, 900 So.2d 737, 742-3 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2005) was found to warrant permanent alimony despite the marriage lasting two years and four months. Similarly, a wife’s disability that led to kidney disease, arthritis and eye surgery in the case of Adinolfe v. Adinolfe, 718 So. 2d 369 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998) led to an affirmation of permanent alimony in a short-term marriage.
What Happens If a Debilitating Medical Condition Arises Prior to the Marriage?
The aforementioned cases all involved medical conditions that arose during the marriage itself. Does Florida law treat medical conditions that arise prior to the marriage differently?
Arguably, Florida case law shows that the courts are more concerned about whether a spouse is capable of self-support, not when the condition arises. In the 1995 case of Lagstrom v. Lagstrom, 662 So. 2d 756 (Fla. DCA 1995), permanent alimony was affirmed in a short-term marriage based on a wife’s depression and psychologist testimony stating she could not self-support herself. The facts of the case make no mention of when the depression began, which seems to suggest the court was primarily concerned with the spouse’s inability to be self-supporting.
Florida spouses, then, may be awarded permanent alimony in a short-term marriage when exceptional medical circumstances are present. If you have any other questions about permanent alimony, contact The McKinney Law Group for a legal consultation.