Alimony in Florida
When a couple decides to divorce, one of the major issues is determining if there will be any ongoing support – alimony to either spouse. Alimony is intended as a way to ensure that neither spouse is unable to be self supporting without the other’s income, but it is not awarded in every divorce case. If you are in a position where you believe alimony will be awarded to you or your spouse, it is important to understand the factors that go into the court’s consideration of an alimony award.
What Factors Affect A Grant Of Alimony?
Generally, a Florida court will look at several issues before determining whether alimony is appropriate and, if so, what type and how much alimony a spouse will be entitled to. At the heart of the matter, one spouse must demonstrate a need, and it must also be determined that the other spouse has the ability to pay. If both spouses have, or will have, roughly the same income level, and there is no evidence that either may encounter problems with cash flow after the divorce, alimony will likely be deemed unnecessary. The court may also consider both the marital and non-marital assets of either spouse in determining if alimony is proper. The length of the marriage is also relevant. Florida law categorizes marriage as short term (less than 7 years), moderate-length (7 to less than 17 years) or long term (17 or more years), and the duration can affect whether or not alimony is awarded.
The relevant statute, Florida Statute section 61.08 also lists several factors that the court must consider. These factors include, but are not limited to:
- The standard of living established by the couple;
- The age, and physical and emotional condition of each spouse;
- The financial resources of each spouse, including both marital and non-marital assets and liabilities of each;
- The employability (and all associated skills or qualifications) of each party, which can affect one’s income flow, especially if one has been a homemaker until that point;
- The potential tax consequences of receiving alimony (the court will try to avoid conferring an unreasonable tax burden on either spouse); and
- Any other factor that the court holds is “necessary to do equity and justice” between the parties.
Different Types of Alimony
Florida law sets forth five types of alimony, each designed to address a specific situation or need. While having specific forms of alimony may be more confusing at the outset, in the long run it may save couples time and trouble that might otherwise have been spent trying to modify alimony, and by extension cuts down on overtaxed family court dockets.
The following is a brief overview of the different types of alimony available in Florida.
The first type is “temporary alimony” which is awarded during the pendency of a divorce suit. It can be modified during the proceeding, if necessary, and may be adjusted (if requested) at the conclusion of the case depending upon the final allocation of the parties’ finances. It terminates at the time of final judgment if not modified or terminated by court order before that time. Unlike the other forms of alimony, temporary alimony may not be waived by a prenuptial agreement as of the time of this writing.
The second type is “bridge-the-gap alimony,” which is granted for short periods of no more than 2 years, though, like all other forms of court awarded alimony, it will terminate upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the recipient. Otherwise, neither the duration nor the amount can be modified.
The third type is called rehabilitative alimony, which is granted for the express purpose of helping to sustain the recipient through whatever schooling or training he or she may require to rejoin the workforce. For example, a woman who has spent the last 10 years as a homemaker may require an advanced degree or more up-to-date training if she seeks to rejoin the workforce. In order to be awarded, the spouse requesting rehabilitative alimony must present a defined plan which is to be included with the order for any such award. If that plan is not complied with, rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated.
The fourth and fifth types of alimony are “durational” and “permanent”. The length of a durational alimony award may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage. However alimony awards, even durational and permanent alimony, will terminate in the event of death of either party and/or the remarriage of the recipient spouse.
Alimony awarded by the judge may generally be modified upon the showing of a substantial and unanticipated change of circumstance, upon the finding of a supportive relationship or, in appropriate circumstances, upon the retirement of the payor spouse. In settlement, spouses have more leeway in alimony awards, including the ability to negotiate non-modifiable alimony and make alimony payments nontaxable to the recipient spouse.
The Florida legislature has unsuccessfully attempted to revise the alimony statute over the last few years. The proponents of the legislation have advocated for elimination of permanent alimony. The proposed legislation failed again in 2017, but the Law Office of Georgia T. Newman will continue to monitor any potential revisions in Florida alimony law.
Contact A Knowledgeable Attorney
Due to the variations in alimony type and the multitude of factors involved in advocating for or against an alimony award, it is important to have an attorney who understands the law and is able to properly apply the facts of your case in order to advocate for the most advantageous result for you. The West Palm Beach alimony lawyers at the Law Office of Georgia T. Newman will fight for you. Our lawyers practice throughout Palm Beach County and Martin County. Contact the office today at 561-296-1400 to set up an initial consultation.