Alimony and How Courts Decide to Award Spousal Support
For a select few, divorce will be a seamless process that merely involves filing paperwork and waiting for a judge to issue a divorce decree. These seemingly easy dissolutions often involve couples that either had detailed prenuptial agreements or a very short marriage. For the rest, however, divorce will likely include some amount of disagreement requiring negotiation and compromise to resolve. One area that is often disputed is the payment of alimony or spousal support. Alimony is often requested in divorces where one spouse earns considerably more than the other, one spouse stopped working to raise children or otherwise support the household, or in marriages of long duration. A high profile couple in South Florida going through a divorce is currently battling over this issue as the wife has asked for alimony, as well as a sizeable portion of couple’s property. Alimony awards usually involve a balanced consideration by a court of what is fair to the spouse with greater financial resources and the spouse who needs assistance. Alimony law in Florida is complex, and does not provide a judge with hard-line rules on when an alimony award is appropriate. This leaves the outcome to a case-by-case analysis that is hard to predict. Despite this uncertainty, parties seeking alimony need to understand the various types of alimony permitted under Florida law so they know what to expect during the divorce process. A discussion of this issue will follow below.
Types of Alimony
Florida has four types of alimony that range from extremely temporary to permanent, and a judge can combine more than one type into an alimony award as needed. The four types are: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. Bridge-the-gap is the shortest type of alimony, and can last no more than two years. It is intended to assist a party with the transition from married to single and to cover specific short-term needs.
Rehabilitative alimony provides financial assistance to a party while he/she acquires or updates the skills needed to become self-supporting. A detailed rehabilitation plan must accompany these awards outlining precisely what the party intends to do to gain self-sufficiency.
Durational alimony is granted when permanent alimony is inappropriate or unnecessary. This alimony award is for a set period of time that cannot exceed the length of the marriage, and is difficult to modify once established.
Permanent alimony awards are approved when a party lacks the ability to meet his/her financial needs following divorce. It is typically reserved for marriage that lasted at least 17 years, and will only be given for shorter marriages if there is a strong showing of evidence to justify it.
Factors in Alimony Awards
Before a court can begin the alimony award analysis, two preliminary questions must be answered – is the alimony needed, and can the party being asked to pay afford it? Unless both of these questions are answered in the affirmative, a court will not even consider awarding alimony. Once this first hurdle is overcome, the court must then weigh a number of factors to determine if alimony appropriate is appropriate. These factors include:
- the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
- how long the parties were married;
- the age, physical health, and mental condition of the parties;
- the financial resources of each party;
- the earning capacities of each party;
- the contribution of each party to the marriage, including child care and career support provided; and
- the division of parental responsibilities between the parties for minor children.
Note that a court can consider evidence of adultery by a spouse in this analysis, and the length of a marriage is calculated from the date they couple married until one filed for divorce.
Get Legal Help
Getting divorced is a difficult time in a person’s life, and having the guidance of an experienced divorce attorney can take away some of the stress during this emotional time. At the Tampa Bay law firm All Family Law Group, P.A., we focus our practice on family law and divorce matters so we can provide well-informed legal representation to our clients. Contact the Tampa divorce attorneys and family lawyers at All Family Law Group, P.A. in Tampa Bay at 813-816-2232 for a consultation at no charge or email us.
by Lynette Silon-Laguna Google+