Alimony is one issue of several that arises in a marriage dissolution action. What is alimony, and how is it determined in Florida?
The purpose of alimony is to provide financial assistance to the economically weaker spouse. In order to be entitled to alimony, there has to be a legal marriage, as Florida does not recognize common law marriage; there has to be a need for assistance on the part of the requesting spouse; and the other spouse has to have an ability to pay the alimony. This is typically referred to as “need and ability to pay.”
The amount and type of alimony is determined by your individual situation, is fact sensitive, and often depends on the judge hearing your case – one judge’s order may drastically differ from another judge’s order. Although alimony is difficult to predict, there are guidelines that the court must follow in determining whether to award alimony, and how much alimony to award. Florida Statutes state that the court shall consider all relevant economic factors, including but not limited to:
(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(f) 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.
(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
There are 4 types of alimony in Florida: permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and bridge-the-gap alimony. Each type of alimony serves a different purpose. For purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.
Length of marriage and a disparity in income are the main factors that a court will consider in awarding permanent alimony in Florida. Permanent alimony continues until the death of either party and/or the remarriage of the recipient. Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage. There must be a showing by the party seeking permanent alimony in Florida that the other party has the ability to pay the alimony amount requested. In awarding permanent alimony, the court shall include a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties.
Rehabilitative alimony can be used alone or in conjunction with permanent alimony in Florida. In order for the court to award rehabilitative alimony, the party requesting that type of support must provide the court with a rehabilitative plan which includes the objective of the rehabilitation, the areas in which rehabilitation is desired, and the actual amount of rehabilitative alimony necessary. Rehabilitative alimony in Florida is paid over a definitive time period to allow a spouse the opportunity to become self supporting by obtaining the necessary education and training to gain new employment skills. This can include vocational school or college. Often the rehabilitative claim is made by a party who has given up their education or job to raise children and now needs support so they can finish or reestablish themselves in the workforce with education and/or training. Rehabilitative alimony in Florida is more typically awarded in medium length marriages and short term marriages.
Bridge the Gap Alimony
Bridge-the-gap alimony in Florida may be awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs, and the length of an award may not exceed 2 years. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony, and it is not be modifiable in amount or duration.
The purpose of durational alimony in Florida is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. The amount of an award of durational alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances. However, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
If you have questions regarding divorce, alimony and spousal support please contact the Men’s Divorce Law Firm today. Orlando family lawyer Jeffrey Feulner is an experienced advocate for husbands and fathers dealing with Florida alimony and divorce.