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How is Spousal Support Determined in Florida?

One of the key issues to be determined by the Court for many divorcing couples is alimony – otherwise referred to as spousal support. Spousal support isn’t gender-specific. The first thing the Court decides is whether either spouse has a need and, if so, whether either has the ability to pay spousal support. If alimony is to be awarded to either spouse, the court may consider adultery in deciding the amount to be paid.

Types of Alimony in Florida

Alimony types and factors will vary from state to state. There are two ways it may be paid. The most common method of payment – and the one most people usually think of when referring to alimony – is periodically, according to a schedule ordered by the Court. Also, it may be paid in a single, one-time payment known as “lump sum” alimony.

As in most other aspects of a divorce, spouses are able to maintain some control over how much is paid and how frequently, if they can come to a mutual agreement. Unlike child support, alimony can be given up – or waived – in its entirety, usually in exchange for other benefits in the divorce (like a valuable piece of property). In Florida, there are five types of alimony which a judge may order, alone or in combination with each other or considering how marital assets or debts have been divided.

Temporary alimony — Temporary alimony is granted during the divorce process when one spouse requires financial support before trial, while the case is pending. It automatically ends once the divorce is final, unless another form of spousal support is provided for in the final judgment.

Bridge-the-gap alimony — Bridge-the-gap alimony begins after the divorce is final. This short-term alimony lasts a maximum of two years and is solely intended to help the lower-earning spouse “bridge the gap” between married life and single life, as they get their finances in order. To be awarded bridge-the-gap alimony, a spouse must prove that he or she has a legitimate need for support; for example, if they are trying to sell a home.

Rehabilitative alimony — Rehabilitative alimony is similar to bridge-the-gap alimony in that it is for a set period of time. Rehabilitative alimony has a very specific purpose: to allow the spouse receiving alimony to get the education or other training necessary in order for them to achieve a particular degree or certification, which will make them more employable. To qualify, the spouse requesting rehabilitative alimony not only has to prove they have a need for support, they also must file with the Court a rehabilitative plan, detailing the particular goal, how much support is needed, specifically where the funds will be allocated in the rehabilitation plan, a reasonable timeframe in which the goal is expected to be accomplished and the anticipated income when the spouse obtains employment according to the Plan.

Durational alimony — Another type of alimony is durational alimony which, similar to Bridge-the-Gap alimony, is intended to assist a spouse financially in transitioning from married life to single. The time limit on durational alimony is the same as the length of the marriage. If you were married for five years, you can’t ask for ten years of durational alimony because your limit is five years. Likewise, if you were married for ten years, the judge may order seven years alimony, but not twelve years.

Permanent alimony — Permanent alimony most often following a long-term marriage, defined by Florida law as seventeen years or more. Usually there is a significant disparity in the parties’ incomes and a finding by the Court that the lower-earning spouse is unlikely ever to become fully self-supporting, at a standard of living as close as possible to the parties’ marital standard. The judge awarding permanent alimony has to provide reasons as to why another form of alimony wouldn’t be fair and reasonable, based on the facts of the particular case. Unless modified, permanent alimony continues until the death of one of the spouses, the remarriage of the recipient or the recipient entering into a financially supportive relationship involving cohabitation (i.e., a domestic partnership).

A marriage of seven years or less is considered to be a short-term marriage and an award of permanent alimony is unlikely unless there are significant mitigating circumstances (such poor health or disability which occurred during the marriage which will prevent future employment). Marriages between seven and fifteen years duration may qualify for permanent alimony, but the spouse requesting permanent alimony under those circumstances has a much higher burden of proof as to why such alimony should be awarded. Each case is factually different. Typically, however, if a financial disparity is unlikely to be resolved and the parties were married more than fifteen years, there is a high likelihood that alimony will be awarded.

How Alimony is Determined

Determination of alimony varies from state to state. The amount which may be awarded in a case frequently is one of the most difficult areas of family law in which to predict an outcome with reasonable certainty. In Florida, there is no particular mathematical formula, so the amount and type will be determined based on the facts of the case, as well as the judge’s findings regarding the following partial list of factors:

  • The marital standard of living
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age, health, physical and emotional condition of each party
  • The financial resources to which each spouse has access (including non-marital assets and the assets to be distributed between the parties)
  • If applicable, the time it will take the lower-earning spouse to obtain education or training sufficient to find appropriate employment
  • The contribution of each spouse to the marriage, which must include non-financial contributions such as homemaking, child care, education and other responsibilities which assist the other house with career-building.
  • All sources of income for each spouse
  • Anything else that would affect the equity and justice of the case

If you have questions about your spousal support rights and responsibilities, contact the Kissimmee family law attorneys at Draper Law Offices at 866-767-4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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