Alimony | Spousal Support | Affordable Family Lawyers

An Overview of Spousal Support Regulations in Florida and How Alimony May Be Adjusted

Spousal support or alimony is the term applied when one spouse disburses funds to the other spouse while going through a divorce or for a determined length of time once the divorce is final. Courts normally require whomever earns more money-husband or wife-to aid the partner who does not make as much money to sustain the same quality of living they enjoyed during the marriage for least some sort of set time after the marriage has been dissolved.

 

There are five different types of alimony available in Florida:

 

Temporary Alimony

Also referred to as alimony ‘pendente lite’ which is a fancy way of saying while the divorce is pending, temporary alimony is instituted by the courts when a husband or wife must have monetary assistance while filing for divorce. The payment terminates as soon as the final divorce decree is entered.

 

Bridge-The-Gap Alimony

This form of spousal support commences once the divorce is final but can only be in effect for twenty-four months. Its goal is to the aid the spouse in financial need to get back on their feet after the dissolution of the marriage. For instance, the money could be placed towards living expenses while one spouse is attempting to find a new residence or is unable to sell the marital property quickly enough. Another circumstance this type of support is provided is if one spouse is finishing an educational program or undergoing job retraining to earn a better living.

 

Rehabilitative Alimony

The goal for this type of spousal support is to help the spouse to finish a degree or training program to acquire gainful employment. In order for a party to receive rehabilitative alimony they must show the court a detailed, sturdy plan with time requirements to illustrate their need as well as their intent.

 

Durational Alimony

When the other forms of alimony don’t appear to fit the respective spouse’s needs, the court can award this kind of spousal support. Payments only last as long as the couple was married. For example, if the marriage lasted 20 years, the durational alimony could be terminated prior but cannot exceed 20 years following the final decree of divorce.

 

Permanent Alimony

This form of spousal support is provided by the court if it is determined a spouse does not possess the tools to ever become self-supporting. This payment would enable them to enjoy the same standard of living they did during the marriage. In this case, however, the presiding judge must clearly outline the motives behind why he is instituting this form of alimony and not any other.

There are, however, certain regulations in place pertaining to how long the marriage endured and if a spouse qualifies for permanent alimony. If the marriage lasted for a minimum of 17 years, the judge very well could rule for permanent alimony if he or she felt there was just cause. If a couple is married between 7 and 17 years, there must be a substantial amount of information to prove why that spouse should receive alimony. If husband and wife have been married less than 7 years, permanent alimony is rarely granted as the circumstances have to be quite exceptional. To be clear, in the eyes of the court, a marriage is still legally valid until the parties file the paperwork for divorce. If they live in separate residences prior, that does not qualify.

Florida law applies certain presumptions with regard to length of marriage and eligibility for permanent alimony. Following a marriage of at least 17 years, a judge may award permanent alimony if such an award is appropriate in light of the above factors. After a marriage of between 7 and 17 years, there must be clear and convincing evidence of appropriateness to justify the award. After a marriage of less than 7 years, permanent alimony is appropriate only in exceptional circumstances. A marriage lasts until the spouses actually file for dissolution, not when they informally separate or stop living together.

 

How Does The Court Determine Spousal Support or Alimony?

The must ascertain that the spouse requesting the support is in need and that other spouse can afford the payment without an undue financial burden being placing upon them.

Once that is determined the other factors are:

  • The full financial portfolio of the spouse requesting alimony.

  • Both parties’ total income, which includes investments as well as pensions.

  • The educational levels, professional background and employability of each spouse.

  • The standard of living during the marriage.

  • How long the parties were married for.

  • How old and in what kind of health the husband and wife are.

  • What each person brought into or built during the marriage. This includes homemaking or helping to put another spouse through school.

  • Ramifications from taxes due to the award.

  • Child support obligations.

  • If the spouse needing assistance plans on acquiring an education and how long that will take at what cost.

In addition, the court can include adultery in the above listed factors for consideration. That depends entirely on the circumstances, such as if one spouse purchased extremely expensive gifts for a paramour that caused the other party financial harm.

 

Can Spousal Support Be Altered or Ended?

The couple can work out an agreement between themselves identifying exactly when the alimony ends or how and if the payments can be changed, but otherwise spousal support can only be adjusted depending on what form it comes in:

  • Bridge-the-gap alimony cannot be changed in any way, shape or form. It is as is.

  • It’s possible for a court to alter rehabilitative spousal support of the party does not uphold the agreement or if they finish the requirements earlier than originally intended.

  • Durational, permanent and rehabilitative alimony can all be altered if a significant transition in either party’s financial situation occurs. But in the case of durational support, only the payment amount can be changed, not the time table and it cannot last longer than the length of the parties’ marriage.

Also, durational and permanent alimony terminate if the spouse receiving payment marries someone else or if either husband or wife perishes. In addition, permanent alimony can be altered or cease if the person receiving the payments resides with a person that is not related to them in what is called a “supportive relationship.” In this circumstance the court reviews:

  • If the two parties living together refer to each other as husband or wife or if they share the same last name or address.

  • How long they have been living together at that address.

  • If each is financially independent.

  • If mutual support exists between them.

  • If they bought property jointly.

  • Proof of a valid agreement outlining shared property or financial support.

  • The provision of what is called “valuable services” for one other.

  • Whether the two parties have combined efforts to produce or improve anything of substance.