June 8, 2023
Unlike child support, no statute dictates how much spousal support one spouse should pay another. Instead, the statutes provide several guidelines for the court to determine alimony.
Additionally, wives are not the only ones who can request alimony – either spouse can seek alimony payments following a divorce. However, income generally determines whether the court will order one spouse to pay spousal support to the other. For specific advice regarding your situation, contact a St. Petersburg divorce attorney with experience in spousal support and alimony.
Types of Alimony
Florida allows a spouse to collect several types of alimony. The court usually chooses which type the spouse receives based on the income of both parties, among other factors.
Types of alimony include:
- Bridge-the-gap: Bridge-the-gap alimony gives one spouse the time to transition to living as a single person. This type of alimony can be up to two years, and neither spouse can modify it.
- Rehabilitative: When one spouse needs time to reach self-sustenance, the court could order rehabilitative alimony. This gives the spouse time to obtain more education to help increase wages. The receiving spouse must show a rehabilitation plan that the court attaches to the order for rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony is adjustable if the receiving spouse does not keep to the plan or in the event of unforeseen circumstances. It automatically ends when the receiving spouse completes the plan.
- Durational: Courts typically grant durational alimony to a financially dependent spouse. However, unlike permanent alimony, durational alimony is for a set period and cannot last longer than the duration of marriage. This arrangement usually follows short to mid length marriages, as opposed to long marriages lasting more than 17 years.
- Permanent: Permanent alimony is an award that is “permanent” in nature. It usually ends upon the receiving spouse’s remarriage, when the receiving spouse enters a supportive relationship (as opposed to marriage), or the death of either spouse. It is modifiable if one party can prove a significant change in circumstances.
- Temporary: Sometimes, the spouses separate during the pendency of their divorce. If one of the spouses cannot provide enough support to live alone, the court may order the other spouse to pay temporary alimony. This award ends as soon as the court finalizes the divorce.
- Lump sum: In some cases, the court might feel that one spouse should receive alimony, but the other doesn’t have a steady income. In other cases, a spouse with assets might prefer to pay alimony in one lump sum. If the court orders lump-sum alimony, the paying spouse can pay cash or “trade” an asset for alimony.
Alimony is designed to be flexible to help the requesting spouse during and after the transition out of their marriage. Courts may order one or a combination of two or more of the six types of alimony depending on the certain circumstances of the divorce.
How the Court Determines Alimony
Before the court can determine whether one party should receive alimony, it must look at both spouses’ finances. The court must determine that a spouse needs alimony support and that the other can afford to pay. Uncontrollable spending is not a need.
If a spouse makes enough to support themselves and spends money foolishly, the other spouse is not responsible for supporting that habit. Once the court determines the need, it has great discretion in ordering alimony.
In addition to need, the court must consider:
- How the parties lived during the marriage – the standard of living.
- The length of the marriage. A short-term marriage is less than seven years, a moderate-term marriage is from seven to less than 17 years, and a long-term marriage is 17 or more years. The marriage is measured from the date of the marriage to the date of filing for divorce.
- The age of both parties.
- The emotional and physical condition of both parties
- The non-marital and marital resources and liabilities of each party
- The earning capacity of each spouse, including vocational skills, education, and employability of each spouse
- What each spouse contributed to the marriage, including whether one spouse worked while the other attended college or another schooling, homemaking, career building, and child care
- The responsibilities of each party to the couple’s minor children
- The consequences of taxes on each party: Alimony is usually taxable as income to the receiving spouse and deductible to the paying spouse.
- All of the income sources available to each party, including investments
The court may also order the paying spouse to obtain an insurance policy or bond to protect an alimony award in case their circumstances change.
Additionally, a court cannot order an alimony award that leaves the paying spouse with significantly less money than the receiving spouse, except in “exceptional circumstances.”
Finally, Florida does not require parties to pay spousal support through a depository or an electronic financial management system monitored by the state. However, in most cases, if the couple has minor children, the paying spouse usually forwards spousal support and any child support payments to the depository.
At any time, either spouse can request that spousal support goes through the depository. If the paying spouse stops paying, the receiving spouse may also request that all future payments are collected by the depository.
Both spouses should keep a record of the alimony payments. If the payer can’t prove they paid, the court may order to pay the “missing” payments in a lump sum or through the depository.
The court has great deference when determining alimony payments and arrangements, which is why spouses should be prepared to outline their financial situation to accurately reflect their need after a divorce.
If you are considering filing for divorce or your spouse has already served you with divorce papers, contact a family law attorney as soon as possible for your free case consultation.