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 a lot of 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 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.
The 5 Types of Alimony in Florida
There are five types of alimony in Florida that an ex-couple can negotiate. Which type is awarded depends on what each spouse needs and over what period the payments will be made.
1. Temporary Alimony
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 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, 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 and bridges 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 time 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 unemployed to care for children, attending school and not earning an income, or other similar situations. This type of alimony provides support while an ex-spouse finishes their education or finds employment.
According to Florida statute 61.08:
(b) In order to award rehabilitative alimony, there must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan which shall be included as a part of any order awarding rehabilitative alimony.(c) An award of rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated in accordance with s. 61.14 based upon a substantial change in circumstances, upon noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or upon completion of the rehabilitative plan.
Rehabilitative alimony 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.
4. Durational Alimony
Durational alimony is awarded in cases where a marriage was only in place for a short or moderate period of time. It is an intermediate form of alimony between bridge-the-gap and permanent alimony. This alimony is designed to provide a party with financial assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration and it may not exceed the length of the marriage.
An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.
5. Permanent Alimony
This type of alimony is typically awarded in periodic payments and is awarded in marriages that lasted for a long period of time (a marriage of 17 years or greater).
There is no presumption either in favor of or against an award of permanent alimony upon dissolution of a marriage of greater than seven years but less than 17 years. In a moderate-term marriage, the difference in earning power of the parties is a significant factor in determining whether permanent alimony will be awarded.
Upon the dissolution of a short-term marriage, a marriage of less than seven years, there is a presumption against the award of permanent alimony. Although permanent alimony generally is not appropriate in a short-term marriage, the shortness of the marriage does not necessarily preclude an award of permanent alimony, and permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of short duration if there are exceptional circumstances.
Permanent alimony is based on the theory that the requesting party cannot be self-supporting and it is intended to allow the requesting spouse to maintain the standard of living established by the parties during the marriage.
An award of permanent periodic alimony is warranted where the evidence shows that the recipient’s income would very likely never be as great as the ex-spouse’s income.
“An award of permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.”
Finally, an award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances (see below).
How is Alimony Calculated in Florida?
According to Florida Statute 61.08, 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 anything else the judge feels is relevant.
“In determining the proper type and amount of alimony or maintenance under subsections (5)-(8), the court shall consider all relevant 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.”
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 there is 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. See Section 61.08(3).
- 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.
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 have 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
Read: Case Examples of Alimony Modification: Remarriage or New Relationship
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