How Long Do I Have to be Married to Get Alimony in Florida
A common question many people have is: How long do I have to be married to get alimony in Florida? The answer can be complex and uncertain but their are some easy to understand ground rules for alimony claims in Florida. Watch this informative discussion with Attorney Kristal Knox on how the length of marriage affects alimony claims during Florida divorces.
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Howard Iken: Hi, this is Howard Iken, and we’ll be talking with Kristal Knox in our Legal Information Studio. Miss Knox will be discussing how long you have to be married in the state of Florida to seek alimony.
We’re here with Kristal Knox today and we’re going to talk about a frequently asked question, exactly how long you have to be married in Florida in order to receive alimony. Good afternoon.
Kristal Knox: Good afternoon.
Howard Iken: Let me go ahead and start with that very, very simple question and see if you have a simple answer. How long do you have to be married to make a claim for alimony in Florida?
Kristal Knox: There isn’t a simple answer to that, unfortunately.
Howard Iken: I was afraid you would say that.
Kristal Knox: A lot of it depends on what type of alimony you’re looking for and how long you’ve been married. Currently, the statute as it is distinguishes between a short-term marriage, a mid-length marriage, and a long-term marriage. With those particular types of marriages, you can receive different types of alimony.
Howard Iken: Okay. Now let’s go ahead and talk about the different situations that it’s easy to get alimony and situations where it’s hard to get alimony. Are there actual situations that make it very easy?
Kristal Knox: Yes. The easiest alimony case I can get is a woman who’s been married more than 17 years who stayed home during the marriage with the party’s children, raised them, took care of the home, was a homemaker, and the husband went out and worked. That is the traditional alimony case.
Howard Iken: All right. I’ve got to stick up for the guys here. Does that include some men that stay at home for that amount of time?
Kristal Knox: It does, it does. Things have changed. Society has changed and there are men that stay home and there are men that are homemakers that take care of the home and the children and the women go out and work.
Howard Iken: Is there any preference, male versus female right now?
Kristal Knox: Not anymore.
Howard Iken: Not anymore in Florida?
Kristal Knox: Not anymore in Florida.
Howard Iken: Are there any kind of laws or anything on the books that make it easier for men or women to claim alimony?
Kristal Knox: No, there isn’t.
Howard Iken: Is there any kind of prejudice against men who would seek alimony?
Kristal Knox: Sometimes there is. I would say that depending on the courtroom and your judge, some judges may not appreciate a man who is attempting to receive alimony from a woman. I would say that in some cases you may run into some trouble there.
Howard Iken: Would it be better for me to get a male or female judge if I were seeking alimony?
Kristal Knox: I don’t know if it’s male or female. I would say you may have a little more trouble with a female judge if you’re a man trying to get alimony. You have a professional woman there who has gone to school and supported herself and is obviously working. I would say you may, but that’s not always the case. That could be stereotyping as well.
Howard Iken: How about a female attorney versus a male attorney? Would one or the other help me more if I were a man?
Kristal Knox: I think you could take either a male or a female attorney.
Howard Iken: All right. Let me just restate. How long do you need to stay married to be assured of getting alimony?
Kristal Knox: You’re never going to be assured of getting alimony. It’s very fact-dependent. It depends on the facts. It depends on your situation. If you meet some of the criteria that the court’s looking for, then you’ll receive alimony, and if you don’t, you will not.
Howard Iken: Does it matter if you have children or not?
Kristal Knox: No, it doesn’t. Now, if you have children and you have stayed home and taken care of those children, and therefore you haven’t been able to advance your career in the same way that the other party has, that increases your chances of receiving alimony.
Howard Iken: All right. Let’s say I, as someone looking for alimony, really want to work, I want to go back into the workforce, I maybe want to go to school. Do I have to just get permanent alimony and stay not working?
Kristal Knox: No. You can request what’s called rehabilitative alimony. With that, you would provide the court with what the court calls a rehabilitative plan. With that, you’re going to say, “Hey, I’m going to go to school at this school. I’m going to pursue this degree. It’s going to take this long. This is what I need to make this happen, and at the end of the day, this is what I expect to be earning.”
Howard Iken: Can it be 10 years of school?
Kristal Knox: No, I would say it needs to be something a little more reasonable to get you back on your feet where you can start taking care of yourself. A four-year degree I don’t think is unreasonable.
Howard Iken: I could go back to school at anytime if I have earned some sort of right to alimony and I can go for whatever degree I want and become whatever I want?
Kristal Knox: Yes. As long as it’s something that it will allow you to support yourself so that you’re no longer relying on the other party for support.
Howard Iken: Okay. That’s in how long a marriage you say?
Kristal Knox: I think you can do that . . . You’re more likely to get that with a mid-length marriage or a long-term marriage.
Howard Iken: How long are the two of those?
Kristal Knox: Mid-length marriage is 7 years, between 7 and 16 years, 11 month type of thing, and 17-plus years is a long-term marriage.
Howard Iken: That sounds very, very specific. Does that mean if I’m married 17 years and one day, I can automatically get alimony?
Kristal Knox: You don’t automatically get anything. It means that you have the ability to request permanent alimony, but you still have to meet the criteria that would allow you to get permanent alimony and that varies a lot. You’re looking at, whatever your need is, if your spouse has the ability to provide you with money to fulfill that need, whether or not you’re able to take care of yourself. There’s a bunch of different things that the court’s going to look at.
Howard Iken: You said a 17-year marriage and I have a strong chance of getting alimony. How about a 16 year and 11 month marriage? Does that mean I’m totally out of luck?
Kristal Knox: That means that it’s likely you will not receive permanent alimony. You’re looking at a durational type of thing, but you could get up to 16 years, 11 months worth of alimony on the durational aspect of it. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t plead it and ask for it because it’s still right there on the edge and there is a possibility you may be able to receive it, but under the current statute, they’re setting guidelines as to what you’re entitled to and it starts at 17 years for the permanent alimony.
Howard Iken: So 16 years and 29 days, still probably out of luck for permanent alimony.
Kristal Knox: So 16 years, 11 months, and 29 days. Is that what you’re getting at?
Howard Iken: Yes, I’m sorry. Yes, that’s actually what I meant.
Kristal Knox: I would say that there is a possibility because it’s a one or two day type of thing. I think you still should ask for it and try to get it, but there’s a possibility you’ll be cut off and told, look, statute says 17 years. You’re not there.
Howard Iken: That number is pretty serious.
Kristal Knox: Yes.
Howard Iken: All right. What kind of alimony, if any, can I get for less than a 17-year marriage?
Kristal Knox: Less than a 17-year marriage, if it’s between 7 and 17 years, it’s called durational alimony and what that means is it’s just for a term of years. You can only get it for up to the amount of time that you’ve actually been married. If you’ve been married for 7 years, you may be entitled to up to 7 years’ worth of durational alimony.
Howard Iken: How about at the other end of things? Let’s say a two-year marriage. Is someone completely out of luck in a two-year marriage.
Kristal Knox: Likely, yes. If you came to me with a two-year marriage, I’m going to most likely tell you you’re not entitled to alimony. However, we may be able to get you a little bit of temporary alimony during the pendency of the divorce where you get some support while the divorce is happening. May be able to get you maybe a little bit of what’s called bridge the gap alimony that would just give you something so that you have something to get on your feet. What that does is it’s also call transitional sometimes because it’s something given to you to help you transition from being married to single.
Howard Iken: Now, there are a lot of people who would tell you they were actually together with their spouse or significant other for 10 years and then they got married and they stayed married for three, four, five years. How about those circumstances where they were actually together almost 17 years?
Kristal Knox: It doesn’t matter. The court is going to look at how long they were married. There is no common law marriage in the state of Florida, so they’re not going to consider the time that you cohabitated together when you were not married.
Howard Iken: Do you do a lot of alimony cases?
Kristal Knox: Yes, I do.
Howard Iken: Have you had men as well as women seeking alimony?
Kristal Knox: I have.
Howard Iken: Do you personally see a difference between the two?
Kristal Knox: I do think it’s a little bit harder for a man to get the alimony. I think the courts are more sympathetic towards a woman who is seeking alimony, but I have seen it happen. If your facts are good and you have good facts in your favor that there is a possibility that you’re going to get it and I think you should ask for it if you’re entitled to it.
Howard Iken: Is there any kind of penalty if you ask for alimony and you don’t get it?
Kristal Knox: No, there isn’t.
Howard Iken: How about if you’re married 30, 40 years? There are some people who are married that length of time. Is alimony assured?
Kristal Knox: It’s never assured. It’s still based upon need and ability to pay.
Howard Iken: What does that mean exactly? I need more money right now. Does that mean I can definitely get alimony?
Kristal Knox: Well, it depends on what you need it for. Are your needs and necessities of life taken care of? Can you live, can you eat, do you have a place to stay? Can you afford to take care of yourself?
Howard Iken: Well, sure, but I don’t necessarily have a boat that I want or things like that. Can stuff like that qualify me for alimony?
Kristal Knox: It’s a really hard question because the court also looks at your marital lifestyle as well. What has been your lifestyle throughout the marriage and what are your needs?
Howard Iken: Well, for me, pretty frugal. Let’s just say I wanted to claim alimony and the main reason is I wanted to live really nice, even nicer than I have been living. Does that qualify me?
Kristal Knox: No, it doesn’t.
Howard Iken: Is that an absolute?
Kristal Knox: I would say yes. You don’t get to live more extravagantly than you lived during your marriage. That’s not what the purpose of alimony is for. It’s not so that the other party can fund your extravagant lifestyle. It’s so that you can live as you were accustomed during the marriage, which again is another legal term which, in my opinion, is very hard to do as well. I don’t see how you can take two separate households and both live at the same marital lifestyle that you’ve been accustomed to living with the same income.
Howard Iken: That would be tough. That would be tough.
Kristal Knox: Right. Technically, as it is, that’s what the law states.
Howard Iken: All right. I hear there’s new alimony legislation in the works. What’s the deal with that?
Kristal Knox: Well, at this point in time, it’s my understanding that it is dead in the water. It’s not happening for this year. We were hoping that it would be passed, but it’s not happening.
Howard Iken: Would that have helped more the people claiming alimony or the people paying alimony? Which one would it have benefited?
Kristal Knox: I think it would’ve benefited both. However, it may be a little more the people paying. There’s something to be said for a more concrete definite formula for what it is that you’re going to have to pay or what it is you’re going to receive as well.
Howard Iken: All right. Would that legislation have affected how long it takes, how long you need to be married, to get alimony?
Kristal Knox: I don’t believe so. I believe that stays the same. It’s more formulas and that sort of thing. It did do away with the permanent alimony.
Howard Iken: Have you had any interesting cases recently that you could talk about?
Kristal Knox: As far as alimony is concerned?
Howard Iken: Yes.
Kristal Knox: I haven’t had anything in the very, very recently that has been extremely interesting. I have had a case that I may have spoken about previously with a retirement and an alimony, and the fact that former husband could not retire. He needed to retire, but he couldn’t retire, and continue to pay his obligation.
Howard Iken: Even after retirement?
Kristal Knox: Right. Even after retirement, he wouldn’t be able to continue his obligation and he couldn’t retire because he had the obligation. It’s almost like a Catch 22. The court requires that you retire first and then file. He’s in a pinch, and what we’re trying to dance around that a little bit and figure out the best way to help him. I think the retirement issue with alimony is very interesting.
Howard Iken: All right. We’ve talked about alimony pretty in depth and how long you have to be married in the state of Florida for alimony. I have a feeling it gets a lot more complicated than that. Is that true?
Kristal Knox: It is. We touched only on some very basic points. It’s very, I would say, muddy. There are no cut-and-dry answers to really any of these questions you’ve asked me.
Howard Iken: All right. Well, hopefully, we can follow up on that and get more in depth, and meanwhile, I thank you for appearing today and talking about alimony. I hope you’ll consider coming back for some further discussions. Thank you very much.
Kristal Knox: Thank you.