Divorces often create dramatic changes in both spouses’ lives, and alimony is often a part of those changes. Often one of the most pressing issues in a divorce case is whether or not each spouse will have sufficient resources to meet his or her needs while the divorce is pending and after the divorce has been finalized. Florida does not have a set calculation for how much a spouse may receive; therefore, it is often one of the least understood and litigated issues in family law cases.
What the Courts Decide
Florida courts have broad discretion in determining whether to award alimony, the duration, type and amount a spouse will receive.
The most important criteria that Florida courts consider when determining whether or not to award alimony is need and ability to pay. The paying spouse must have the ability pay and the receiving spouse must have a need.
Once a Court has determined both the need and the ability to pay, there are several additional that a court may consider to determine if an award is appropriate. Some of the other criteria that are taken into consideration are:
• The standard of living the couple had during the marriage
• The length of marriage
• The age, physical condition and mental health of each spouse
• The financial resources of each party
• The earning capabilities of each party
• What each spouse contributed to the marriage
• All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
1. Temporary Alimony
Temporary alimony is awarded to meet the needs of a spouse during the pendency of a divorce proceeding. The theory behind it is to place the parties on equal footing during the pendency of the divorce case. Temporary alimony also prevents the other spouse from starving out the other spouse to gain a strategic advantage in the case.
2. Bridge-The-Gap Alimony
Bridge-the gap alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse by providing support to facilitate the transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is for short-term needs, and the length is not exceed a period of two years.
An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony shall not be modifiable in amount or duration.
3. Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse in establishing the capacity for self-support. Rehabilitative alimony must be accompanied by a specific plan. Rehabilitation may include:
a. The redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or
b. The acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials.
Rehabilitative alimony may be terminated for non-compliance with a rehabilitation plan.
4. Durational Alimony
A court may award durational alimony to provide a spouse 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.
5. Permanent Alimony
Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life established during the marriage if a spouse lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following dissolution of marriage.
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. Typically, permanent alimony is awarded after a long term marriage when no other forms are appropriate.
In Florida a marriage is considered long term after 17 years or more years. Although the term “permanent” alimony is utilized, the term is somewhat misleading due to the fact an award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances.
Unless the parties agree to make alimony non-modifiable, an award may be modified based on a substantial change in circumstances. Change in circumstances can include the loss of a job, an increase income of one or both former spouses, or if the former spouse receiving it has entered into a supportive relationship. The law surrounding the modification of alimony can be nuanced and complex. Learn more about Modification of Alimony.