Recent changes to Florida Statute §61.08 significantly affect Florida alimony laws. Previously, the statute language lacked clear definitions of “duration” for the award of alimony or types to be considered.
The changes apply to all alimony awards entered on or after July 1, 2010. The new law cannot be used as the basis for a modification of an alimony award determined before July 1 of this year. The changes bring some clarity to what has long been a vague area of family law. The law affords Judges additional guidance in making alimony award determinations and actually provide some bright line rules. The first step is still a factual determination as to the financial status of the couple involved, focusing on the party’s need for alimony and the other’s party’s ability to pay alimony.
Prior to the recent changes, a court had the authority to consider a number of factors as it determined whether alimony should be granted, and if so, in what amount. Those factors included:
a) The standard of living enjoyed by the couple;
b) The duration of the marriage;
c) Age and physical and mental condition of the parties;
d) The financial resources of each party;
e) Earning capacity, as well as education, skills and employability of the parties;
f) Contributions by the parties to the marriage;
g) Any other factors the court determines are relevant to an equitable alimony arrangement.
Under the new statute, there are now three additional factors for a judge to consider when making an alimony award in Florida:
a) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
b) 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.
c) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
Under the new alimony statute, marriages are divided into three categories of duration and more concrete time frames are provided for categorizing a marriage’s duration. The new law lengthens the amount of time the marriage must last before permanent alimony becomes a strong claim.
a) Short-term: less than seven years of marriage;
b) Moderate: between seven and 17 years;
c) Long-term: more than 17 years of marriage.
The newly revised Florida Statute §61.08 divides alimony into the following categories.
a) Bridge-the-gap alimony
Bridge-the-gap alimony provides support to allow a party to transition from marriage to single life, helping with short-term financial needs. This form of alimony cannot exceed two years. Bridge the Gap Alimony cannot be modified after it is awarded. In other words the court cannot increase the amount, nor can they lengthen the period to be paid.
b) Rehabilitative alimony
Rehabilitative alimony is to help a party become self-supporting by redeveloping previous skills or acquiring new skills through education or training. For example, this type of alimony is intended to allow an individual to return to school for a new career, improve job skills, or take a refresher course. The underlying purpose is to increase or establish the income of a non-working spouse or a spouse that does not earn enough to be self-sufficient.
The new law creates the requirement of rehabilitative alimony that there be a written rehabilitation plan. For example, a plan can consist of a budget for a college degree along with necessary living expenses.
c) Durational alimony
The new alimony statute created Durational Alimony. This is a short-term alimony award that would be appropriate if none of the other categories are suitable. The new statute suggests that Moderate Term marriages of between 7 and 17 years would be appropriate for Durational Alimony. This form of alimony is paid for a court-determined length of time not to exceed the length of the marriage itself. A durational award may be later modified in amount but not in length.
Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage for the party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her own needs following a divorce.
Permanent alimony will most likely be awarded only if following a marriage of long duration. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of moderate duration if such an award is appropriate under the aforementioned factors. A permanent alimony award is only appropriate after a marriage of short duration if there are exceptional circumstances.
Contact the Men’s Divorce Law Firm today should you wish to discuss your unique case that may involve an award of alimony.