How is alimony determined in Florida?
Alimony in Florida can be defined as financial support or maintenance paid by one spouse to another. That support can come in the form of a one-time lump sum payment, or it can be made in installments over a predetermined period of time. There are two basic ways to get alimony in Florida. A court can order it or the parties can agree to it as part of a settlement.
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is one of the most complicated areas of Florida divorce law. One reason for this is that, unlike child support, there is no formula for calculating how much alimony should be awarded in each case. In fact, unless the spouses agree to it, even the decision to award alimony at all is completely up to the judge.
So, whether you are making the case for or against alimony, it’s important to know what spousal support in Florida is based on and how it’s determined.
The two most important factors in any alimony determination are need and ability to pay. The spouse who requests alimony has to prove that he or she has a need for alimony and that the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony. That’s basically it.
Once need and ability have been established, the amount and type of alimony to award has to be determined. In doing so, courts consider many factors.
Those factors include:
- The standard of living established during the marriage (the court will generally try to maintain that standard if reasonable)
- The duration of the marriage (a long term marriage will generally create a stronger presumption of dependence than a short term marriage)
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party (these factors often contribute to a court's determination of a spouse's ability to support himself or herself)
- The financial resources of each party, the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each (as we saw above, the issue here is one of need versus ability to pay)
- When applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment (the court may award a temporary or rehabilitative alimony sum for the purposes of helping a spouse to become self supporting in the near term)
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party
- All sources of income available to either party
Based on its conclusions, the court can award any one or a combination of several different alimony types.
What are the different types of alimony in Florida?
Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to help a spouse make the transition from being married to being single by providing financial support to meet identifiable short-term needs. Bridge-the-gap alimony cannot last longer than two years and terminates upon the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse. Unlike other types of spousal support, bridge-the-gap alimony cannot be modified.
The purpose of durational alimony is to provide financial support to a needy spouse for a set period of time after a divorce. The amount of durational alimony is modifiable but the duration is not except in exceptional circumstances. However, the duration may not exceed the length of the marriage under any circumstances. Durational alimony is the newest type of alimony in Florida and it can be used in those cases where permanent alimony is not appropriate.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony can be awarded as either spousal support or as a way to equalize asset distributions between the parties. It’s important to know the difference because support payments can be enforced through contempt of court proceedings while property distributions cannot.
Permanent Periodic Alimony
Permanent alimony provides ongoing periodic financial support for a spouse who traditionally did not work during the marriage or whose income or earning potential is limited. The purpose is to allow the needy spouse to continue the same standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
The length of the marriage has a significant impact on a permanent alimony award. Permanent alimony is much more likely to be awarded in long-term marriages (greater than seventeen years) than in short-term marriages (less than seven years). For medium-length marriages (at least seven years but less than seventeen years), the longer the marriage and the larger the income disparity, the more likely permanent alimony will be awarded.
Permanent alimony is modifiable and terminates upon the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse.
Rehabilitative alimony in Florida is designed to help a spouse get back on his or her feet, so to speak, after a divorce. It is a targeted and limited type of support and usually takes the form of financial assistance while the receiving spouse undergoes training or education to increase his or her employability and earning potential. Before the court can award rehabilitative alimony, the spouse requesting it must submit a specific rehabilitation plan. Rehabilitative alimony is modifiable and may be terminated for noncompliance with the rehabilitation plan.
There is one thing to keep in mind regardless of which type of alimony is established. Unless there are exceptional circumstances, the award of alimony cannot leave the paying spouse with significantly less net income than the receiving spouse.
There are many factors that affect the type of alimony awarded, the amount of alimony awarded, even whether alimony is awarded at all. We have the training and experience needed to protect your rights in this complex area of divorce law. Contact Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney Andrew Foster to schedule your initial consultation today.
The Law Offices of S. Andrew Foster represents clients throughout South Florida including Aventura, Cooper City, Coral Springs, Davie, Doral, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hialeah, Hollywood, Kendall, Miami, Miami Lakes, Miramar, North Miami, Parkland, Pembroke Pines, Plantation, Sunrise, Tamarac, and Weston.