Alimony in a Florida Divorce
The question of whether one spouse will be ordered to pay the other alimony following a divorce can give rise to some of the most contentious battles in the entire divorce process. Read on for insight into how alimony works in Florida.
Types of alimony
Alimony is a completely separate issue from child support. Moreover, unlike child support, alimony in Florida is not determined by an established formula, but is within the judge’s discretion to award. Alimony may be paid in a lump sum or in periodic installments over time. Florida’s alimony law recognizes four basic types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is awarded to assist one party in transitioning from being married to being single. It is designed to meet a legitimate, identifiable short-term need, and cannot last for more than 2 years. It terminates automatically upon either party’s death or the recipient’s remarriage.
Rehabilitative alimony is appropriate to assist a former spouse to become self-supporting, either by (1) redeveloping previous skills or credentials, or by (2) obtaining additional training, education, or experience needed to develop employment skills or credentials. A specific and defined rehabilitative plan must be included in any order awarding rehabilitative alimony.
Durational alimony is available when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. Its purpose is to provide economic assistance for a specific time period following a marriage of short or medium duration, or a long-term marriage when permanent alimony is unnecessary. It terminates if either party dies or the recipient remarries while alimony is being paid.
Florida is one of the few states left that provides for permanent alimony. The court has discretion to award permanent alimony to provide for the standard of living established during the marriage for a spouse who lacks the ability to provide that standard (or, in the statute’s language, “needs and necessities of life”) following a divorce. To award this type of alimony, the court must find that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the parties’ circumstances. A permanent alimony award terminates on the death of either party or the recipient’s remarriage.
Factors considered in an alimony award
Before the court can award alimony, it must find both that one party has an actual need for it and that the other party has the ability to pay. After reaching these findings, the court considers a variety of factors to decide what type of alimony is warranted, and in what amount. Among others, these factors include:
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The marriage’s duration;
- Each party’s age, as well as emotional and physical condition;
- Each party’s financial resources; and
- Each party’s earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability.
Modifying an alimony award
Florida law permits almost any kind of alimony award to be modified. The exception is an award of bridge-the-gap alimony, which may not be changed. Rehabilitative alimony may be modified if the recipient completes the rehabilitation plan early, or fails to comply with the plan. Other types of alimony are subject to modification if either party’s circumstances or financial ability change. Additionally, if the recipient enters into a “supportive relationship” with another person, the court may reduce or terminate an alimony award.
Contact an Orlando family lawyer
The experienced Orlando attorneys of Cotter & Zelman, PA, are dedicated to serving the legal needs of clients throughout central Florida. We strive to understand your personal goals and family objectives while representing you throughout the often emotional and difficult process of a family law dispute. If you or your spouse is contemplating divorce, contact us for a consultation about your case today.