Florida courts award permanent periodic alimony for the stated purpose of providing “for the needs and necessities of life for a former spouse as they were established during the marriage of the parties.” Mallard v. Mallard, 771 So. 2d 1138, 1140 (Fla. 2000); see also, Rosecan v. Springer, 845 So. 2d 927, 929-30 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003). Permanent alimony is not about establishing equality between former spouses. Instead, it is intended to avoid situations where a spouse goes “from the ease and comfort of always having more than enough, to the distress of having only just enough for the essentials of minimum food, shelter and clothing.” Donoff v. Donoff, 940 So. 2d 1221, 1225 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006).
In order to establish a party’s need for permanent alimony, courts consider several criteria including both parties’ earning capacity, age, health, education, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage and the value of the parties’ marital estates. Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So.2d 1197, 1201-02 (Fla. 1980). The marital lifestyle considered by the court varies according to the wealth of the parties. In “[m]ore ordinary lifestyles,” the parties’ needs may include mortgage and maintenance costs associated with a home, the costs of a reliable vehicle and the ability to pay for food, clothing and other ordinary expenses. Mallard, 771 So. 2d at 1140, citing Bedell v. Bedell, 583 So. 2d 1005, 1008 (Fla. 1991). For parties with a more extravagant lifestyle (and budget), courts may consider items such as a spouse’s clothing allowance, use of the family’s “various automobiles” and the helicopter and airplane. See Firestone v. Firestone, 263 So. 2d 223 (Fla. 1972).
Permanent alimony is not appropriate where evidence at trial does not show a permanent inability by the recipient spouse to become self-sustaining. Rosecan v. Springer, 845 So. 2d 927, 930 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003)(holding that alimony is not a “tool to forge economic equality, without regard to the needs of the recipient spouse.”) Length of the parties’ marriage may give rise to certain presumptions regarding the entitlement to alimony. For example, in Zeigler v. Zeigler, 635 So. 2d 50, 54 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994), the First District found that the parties’ marriage “is neither a short-term nor a long term marriage, but rather falls in the ‘grey area’ where a determination of entitlement to permanent alimony will be decided based upon a review of the other pertinent factors without the benefit of a presumption in favor or against permanent alimony.” Id., citing Gregoire v. Gregoire, 615 So. 2d 694 (Fla. 2d DCA 1992).
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