Alimony is court ordered spousal support. Spousal support may be ordered by the Court, either during the pendency of the divorce or after the divorce, as the result of a final hearing.
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Temporary Alimony Available in Florida
Court ordered spousal support during the divorce is generally called “Temporary Alimony.” Temporary support is available to a spouse who demonstrates a financial need during the divorce proceedings. The spouse requesting temporary alimony must demonstrate a “need” for support and that the other spouse has the “ability to pay.” If the requesting spouse successfully proves both “need” and “ability to pay” the court may order temporary alimony to allow the requesting spouse to continue meeting routine expenses. Temporary alimony helps the requesting spouse remain financially stable until the Court finalizes the divorce, which may include a final judgment on the issue of alimony.
Other Types of Alimony Available in Florida
Unlike Child Support, which is readily calculated based upon the Florida Child Support Guidelines, alimony offers the parties to a divorce no “formula” or “guidelines” based on income, etc. Roughly, alimony in Florida is largely based on a “need” and “ability to pay” analysis presented to the court.
In Florida there are four (4) types of alimony that a court may order:
- Bridge-the-Gap – This form of alimony is utilized to assist the recipient spouse while transitioning from married to single life. It is usually reserved for marriages of short duration, for example less than (7) years, or cases where long term alimony is not appropriate. Bridge-the-Gap alimony may help the recipient spouse pay bills while the house is being sold, or help support themselves while looking for new work, etc. Bridge-the-Gap alimony cannot exceed two (2) years.
- Rehabilitative – Courts will award Rehabilitative alimony where a spouse needs time and financial resources to become self-supporting, i.e., obtain a degree, receive occupational training, or develop new employable skills to enter the gainful workplace. The recipient of Rehabilitative alimony must present a well-defined and detailed rehabilitative plan specifying their financial “need” for the court to review.
- Durational – This form of alimony is a popular alternative to Permanent Periodic Alimony, as it gives the paying spouse a set “duration” to pay support without having to go back to court to terminate alimony. The recipient spouse must prove “need,” the paying spouse’s “ability to pay” and the basis, or need, for setting the durational term for the alimony. Durational alimony may not exceed the term of the marriage, i.e., if you were married for fifteen (15) years, the durational term may not exceed fifteen (15) years.
- Permanent Periodic – Permanent alimony is appropriate when the court determines that no other form of alimony is appropriate given the facts in evidence. This is usually reserved for cases where the term of the marriage exceeds seventeen (17) years. The court may consider awarding permanent alimony to a disabled spouse, or someone of advanced age, who will require permanent support to meet their “need.” Again, the court must not only determine that there is a need, but also that the paying spouse has the “ability to pay” for the recipient spouses needs.
Parties may agree to some sort of spousal support when attempting to avoid litigation and enter into a marital settlement agreement which specifies the type, duration, and amount of support.
**NOTE: It is important to note that unless the parties agree and specify that the alimony is not modifiable, alimony will otherwise always be subject to modification based upon a significant change in circumstances, such as a subsequent disability, loss of employment, increased income, etc. Furthermore, unless alimony is specified as “unmodifiable” it is subject to termination upon the death of either spouse or remarriage of the recipient spouse.
Who Qualifies for Alimony in Florida?
Either spouse can request alimony, providing they can prove “need” and “ability to pay.” The Court will evaluate the requesting party’s “need” and the responding party’s “ability to pay” based on the following factors:
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- the length of the marriage (7 or fewer years is short-term, 8 – 17 years is moderate-term, and 17 plus years is long-term)
- each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health
- both spouse’s financial resources, including the nonmarital an 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.
Florida courts may consider evidence of adultery to the extent that there is sufficient evidence to prove that marital funds were dissipated by the cheating spouse creating a demonstrable financial impact on the marital estate. For example, if the cheating spouse kept an apartment, paid living expenses, and bought large ticket items for the person involved in the extra-marital affair, that evidence would be appropriate for the court to consider when calculating the amount of the alimony award.
Taxes and Alimony
After December 31, 2018, the supported spouse does not have to claim alimony as income for tax purposes, and the payer spouse can no longer tax deduct alimony.
There are many different processes available to parties seeking to divorce. When alimony is at issue, whether considering divorce by marital settlement agreement, collaborative law or litigation, it is advisable to speak to an experienced attorney before you enter into any agreement or make the decision to litigate.