Alimony for the wife after a divorce was a given in say the mid-20th century all over the country. Today it is very different, but alimony has not gone away entirely. Here’s what you might need to know about alimony in Florida today.
The concept of alimony developed during a time when it was common for one spouse to work full-time while the other stayed home to raise the couple’s family or care for the household. Now when it is rare to see single-income families, the court-order alimony payment made by one spouse to the other during and/or after a divorce is still a possibility under certain circumstances.
The concept for alimony comes from when one spouse files for divorce, the other must adjust from two incomes to one. In some cases, this can be difficult. Courts will consider alimony as an option for either spouse to ensure that no one is left destitute or in need of state assistance after the divorce.
Types of Alimony in Florida
Florida provides five types of alimony: temporary, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent. Couples can negotiate the terms of the alimony award, including the type, duration, and amount of support. However, if the parties can’t agree, the judge will evaluate the circumstances and make the decision without the agreement.
Temporary Alimony Support
Temporary support is available to a needy spouse during the divorce proceedings. The requesting spouse must demonstrate a need before the court orders support, This happens when the other spouse also has the ability to pay. Temporary support is intended to help the lower-earning spouse remain financially stable during the often lengthy divorce process and ends when the judge finalizes the divorce.
Bridge-the -Gap Alimony
Florida is one of few states that offer bridge-the-gap alimony. This type of alimony helps the recipient spouse meet legitimate short-term needs while transitioning from married to single. For example, the needy spouse may use the support to pay bills while waiting for the marital home to sell, or to meet other living expenses while attempting to find full-time work after the divorce. Bridge-the-gap support is designed to be temporary and cannot exceed two years. It will also be terminated if the paying spouse dies or if the supported spouse remarries. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.08 (5) (2018).)
Rehabilitative Support Alimony
Perhaps the most common type of alimony in Florida is rehabilitative support. The court awards rehabilitative support in cases where one spouse can become self-supporting but needs time and financial assistance to redevelop previous skills, or to acquire education, training, or work experience necessary to develop necessary skills and enter the workforce. Before the court awards rehabilitative alimony, spouses must create a specific and defined rehabilitative plan for the court to review.
Durational Support Alimony
Like rehabilitative alimony, durational support is when the court sets a time limit for the alimony. However, there is no rehabilitative plan necessary. Durational alimony is appropriate in cases where the supported spouse needs financial help for a set period of time after the divorce, but the spouse doesn’t qualify for permanent alimony. Support may not last longer than the marriage lasted. For example, if you were married for 5years, your alimony award may not exceed 5 years and the same for 10- or 15-year marriages.
Permanent alimony in Florida is rare. The court reserves permanent alimony awards for spouses who need financial assistance and are unable to become self-supporting in the future. Permanent alimony may be appropriate in cases where the supported spouse is disabled, of advanced age, or caring for a minor child with special needs. In addition to demonstrating special circumstances that require permanent support, the court will also consider the length of the couple’s marriage when deciding a final award.
Like bridge-the-gap alimony, durational, rehabilitative, and permanent alimony ends if the paying spouse dies, or the supported spouse remarries. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.08 (2018).)
Qualifying for Alimony in Florida
Either spouse can request support- that means men as well as women. The court will evaluate whether the requesting spouse needs help and whether the other spouse can pay. If the court finds the “need and ability” the judge will then assess the following factors:
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- the length of the marriage (seven or fewer years is short-term, seven to 17 years is moderate-term, and 17 or more years is long-term)
- each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health
- both spouse’s financial resources, including the nonmarital and marital property, assets, and liabilities
- each spouse’s earning capacity, educational level, vocational skills, and employability and, if applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to find employment
- both spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, education, and career-building of the other spouse
- whether either spouse will have parental responsibilities to minor children
- tax consequences of alimony, if any, to both spouses
- all sources of income to both spouses, including income available through investments, and
- any other factor the court deems necessary to create a fair alimony award.
Adultery may also be considered in the equation, particularly how the affair impacted the couple’s marital funds. For example, if one spouse cheated and paid for an apartment, living expenses, or trips with a girlfriend or boyfriend, the court may factor in the spending when calculating alimony.
Judges have broad discretion when deciding the type(s), duration, and amount of alimony determined appropriate for each case. Experienced legal counsel can help navigate the entire process and help present your situation to seek the best end result.
We encourage you to schedule an appointment to discuss the details of your situation to determine your next steps.