One of the important issues to cover in a divorce case is whether spousal support should be awarded and, if so, for how long and how much. In making these determinations, the courts look into different factors, including the length of the marriage. But how does this relate to awarding alimony?
Categories of marriage by length
The duration of marriage is one of the two primary factors courts consider when determining what type and amount of alimony it should award. The other factor is any disparity between each spouse’s income. In Florida, marriages fall under three categories in terms of duration, namely:
- Short-term marriages: less than seven years
- Gray area marriages: between nine to 17 years
- Long-term marriages: more than 17 years
Usually, courts award durational alimony to those in long-term marriages. However, other factors still affect the court’s overall decision, such as each spouse’s age and mental and physical health.
How the marriage duration ties up with alimony
In marriages, it is a common dynamic for one spouse to have higher income and earning capability than the other. In this setup, the other spouse relies on them to support and maintain their standard of living. The longer the marriage, the more the spouses have become used to their lifestyle. A divorce would substantially affect the relying spouse’s ability to maintain a relatively comparable lifestyle, especially if they did not engage in employment or other income-generating activities during the marriage. Because of this, courts usually award higher and a longer period of spousal support to the non-earning spouse.
Accordingly, the shorter the marriage, the less time the other spouse has relied on the earning spouse for support. Courts are less likely to award alimony for short-term marriages, though it is possible for them to award temporary spousal support if they find it necessary.
The length of marriage might seem like a straightforward factor in alimony cases, but it holds a lot of weight in the court’s spousal support decision.