What You Need to Know About Alimony in Florida and How to Win Your Case
When you begin the divorce process, no one has to tell you the emotional toll it takes on you and your family. Unfortunately, though, divorce can also bring about financial hardship.
That’s where alimony comes into play. Alimony is the financial support that one ex-spouse gives another so that both can maintain the same or similar standard of living they shared while married.
If you don’t get the support you need from your ex-spouse, you’re setting yourself up for financial trouble. The same is true if you give your spouse more alimony than they need and drain your finances in the process.
When you start talking about divorce and money, there are going to be disagreements. Before you begin negotiating for alimony in a divorce case, make sure you understand your options, so you protect your financial well-being after the divorce.
IMPORTANT LAW UPDATE: Florida’s alimony law was changed with the passage of the alimony reform bill, effective July 1, 2023, which applies to all new or pending filings for dissolution of marriage (and some modification requests of existing alimony awards where an order of dissolution of marriage was entered). The new law ends permanent alimony and replaces it with four types, creates a formula for alimony awards based on the length of the marriage, and codifies the termination or reduction of alimony when the payor has reached the normal retirement age.
The 4 Types of Alimony in Florida
There are now four types of alimony in Florida that a soon to be ex-couple can negotiate. Which type is awarded depends on what each spouse needs and over what period the payments will be made.
Florida statute 61.071, allows for temporary alimony, which is defined as reasonable spousal support paid to one spouse from another during the divorce proceeding for the purpose of furnishing the spouse a “temporary” means of living. A temporary award of alimony can include an award of attorney fees to a spouse even if that spouse is financially able to pay the attorney fees him or herself.
The amount of temporary alimony awarded is based on factors such as the length of the marriage, income level, number of dependents, and other evidence that can be presented to the Court during a hearing. A court may also grant temporary alimony if one spouse has remained out of the workforce for a significant period of time and needs assistance in order to become financially self-sufficient. This type of alimony ends when the final judgment is entered.
Common issues related to temporary alimony include:
- Need and the ability to pay
- Modification of orders and judgments
- Payment of Attorney Fees
2. Bridge the Gap Alimony
This type of alimony serves to assist a spouse already capable of self-support to transition from being married to being single. Essentially, it looks at what both spouses need to transition from married to single life with the goal of bridging that gap.
It is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs and must have a relatively brief durational limit (not exceeding two years).
Bridge-the-gap alimony is appropriate in instances where the requesting spouse is already employed, possesses adequate employment skills, and requires no further rehabilitation other than a brief period of time within which to ease the transition to single life.
An award of bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable in amount or duration.
3. Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony is often awarded in cases where one parent was either unemployed so as to care for children, or attending school and not earning an income, or other similar situations. This type of alimony provides support while an ex-spouse either finishes their education or finds employment with the goal of enabling that party to become self-supporting and/or able to contribute to their own support.
According to the new Florida statute, rehabilitative alimony is now capped at 5 years and it may be awarded to enable a former spouse to establish a business, a professional practice, recover from illness, or from the trauma of the divorce. This alimony award can now be ended early if the ex-spouse completes the specific, defined plan early. It was already Florida law that rehabilitative alimony could be ended early if the ex-spouse was not carrying out the plan.
4. Durational Alimony
Durational alimony is awarded in cases where a marriage was in place for a short, moderate or long period of time. A recent change in the law greatly impacted this form of alimony. Durational alimony is designed to provide a party with financial assistance for a set period of time following a marriage based on the length of the marriage.
Under the new law, a short-term marriage is one lasting less than 10 years (previously seven). A moderate-term marriage is one that lasts between 10 and 20 years (previously 7-17). And a long-term marriage, previously defined as one 17 years or longer, is now 20 years or more. Additionally, under the new law:
- People married for less than three years are no longer eligible for durational alimony in Florida.
- Durational alimony may not last longer than 50% of the length of a short-term marriage, 60% of the length of a moderate-term marriage, or 75% of the length of a long-term marriage unless there are exceptional circumstances.
- The amount and duration must be decided on a number of factors, including the ex-spouse’s age and employability.
- The amount is what the court determines to be a reasonable need or an amount not to exceed 35% of the difference between both spouses’ net incomes, whichever is less.
- The need for maintaining the quality of life/standard or living established during the marriage has been removed.
An award of durational alimony terminates upon either the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.
Finally, a durational award of alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances (see below).
What About Permanent Alimony?
As of July 1, 2023, this type of alimony is no longer awarded in Florida. The new law does not impact existing permanent alimony awards unless the existing marital settlement agreement allows for alimony to be modified.
How is Alimony Calculated in Florida?
According to the new law, the Judge will make a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony. The Judge must also consider the length of the marriage, and consider nine other factors in determining alimony such as whether the party seeking support has an actual need for support and whether the other party has the ability to pay support. The party seeking support will have the burden to prove that he or she has a need for support and that the other party has the ability to pay support. Once the Judge determines that one of the parties has a need for support and that the other party has the ability to pay support, the court will consider the following eight additional factors in determining the proper form of alimony:
- the anticipated needs of both of the parties after a divorce is granted.
- the duration of the parties’ marriage.
- the parties’ age, physical and mental condition.
- the income and resources of both parties and the income earned from marital and nonmarital assets.
- the earning capacities, educational levels and employability of the parties. Courts are to consider the ability of both of the parties to obtain the necessary skills or education to enable themselves to either contribute to their own support or become self-supporting.
- the contribution that each of the parties made to the marriage, including education, career building, homemaking and child care.
- the responsibilities that each of the parties will have in raising children that they have in common.
- any other factor that courts of equity and justice should consider in making an alimony award. This may include a finding that a supportive relationship exists or that one of the parties may reasonably retire.
If one spouse can demonstrate a financial need for alimony, the judge must also determine if the other spouse can afford to pay the requested alimony.
Note: A judge may consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded, especially where, due to the adultery, there was a depletion of marital assets.
After reviewing the evidence and considering these factors, the judge will determine the type of alimony, frequency, and amount that’s awarded.
- Life Insurance – A court may require an obligated spouse to purchase or maintain life insurance to secure any alimony arrearage owed or to protect the financial well-being of the other spouse by providing for payment of the entire policy proceeds upon the obligor spouse’s death. The new law codifies many aspects of existing law, including the burden of proof, but also the payor’s ability to pay and outlines special circumstances that must be met to secure alimony with life insurance.
- Imputed Income – The Court may impute income to a party, for alimony purposes, where a party is willfully earning less and the party has the capability to earn more by the use of his best efforts. The level of income it may impute to a party must be supported by the evidence of employment potential and probable earnings based on work history, qualifications, and prevailing wages in the community. See Vitro v. Vitro – 122 So.3d 382.
You Can Modify Alimony in Florida Under Certain Circumstances
Alimony can be modified in Florida if there has been a ‘substantial, material, or unexpected change in circumstances.’ Modifications can increase, decrease, or end the alimony obligations.
The two most common circumstances that cause alimony to be modified are changes in income and remarriage.
Quick Tip: Under the new law, an ex-spouse now has a process where he or she can seek a modification to an existing alimony award when he or she retires.
Modifications of Alimony Due to A Change in Income
If you or your ex-spouse’s income is lost or reduced, the alimony can be modified. If you’re requesting the modification, you’ll need to file a petition for modification and prove that the reduction or loss was involuntary. Voluntary reductions are typically not awarded a modification.
Modifications of Alimony Due to Remarriage
When one ex-spouse remarries or enters into another supportive relationship, that spouse’s financial circumstances typically change. This can create a substantial change in circumstances and warrant the other parent filing a petition to modify alimony.
There are several stipulations surrounding an alimony change in the case of remarriage. In Florida, any voluntary monetary contributions from a live-in companion are not included in the legal financial obligation of the ex-spouse. The new partner’s financial information is usually confidential under Florida’s constitutional right of privacy.
Three factors serve as the starting point in the court’s decision to modify alimony in cases of remarriage.
- Whether the recipient of alimony and the person they’re in a relationship with have acted as a married couple
- Whether the recipient or payor has pooled assets and income with the person they’re in a relationship with, and to what extent
- Whether the person the ex-spouse is in a relationship with has supported them financially
Alimony May Be Awarded Even if a Couple Separates Without Divorce
In Florida, spouses have a legal duty to provide financial support to one another. Therefore, if a couple separates without filing for divorce, one spouse can file a petition for alimony. See Wood v. Wood.
How to Collect Alimony in Florida When a Spouse Refuses to Pay?
Florida has laws to enforce the payment of alimony from one ex-spouse to another. This usually includes wage garnishments and garnishments of other forms of income.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We will answer your questions and explain your rights. When you’re ready to work with an experienced divorce lawyer to help with your alimony case, please fill out the form on our Contact Us page or give us a call at (954) 880-1302