March 18, 2023
How much alimony can I expect to pay? Any divorce lawyer will tell you that negotiating alimony can cause some of the most strife in a divorce settlement.
In Florida, alimony is awarded based on both the financial need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. A judge considers many things when approving alimony and determining the amount and duration, and while there is no set calculator for alimony in Florida, the state’s divorce courts do have a few guidelines.
If you’re concerned about an equitable alimony arrangement, an experienced divorce attorney can help you navigate the negotiations.
Calculating Alimony in Florida
No matter what other conditions exist, Florida law limits the alimony amount of the payee to less than 40 percent of the combined gross income of both spouses.
The amount of income a St. Petersburg divorce court considers isn’t just the amount you bring home in a paycheck.
Other sources of income that a court will evaluate in awarding alimony include:
- Retirement benefits and pensions
- Investments and dividend interest or stock profits
- Income from selling goods or services (like crafts or consultation services)
- Gig income, or contract worker income (like driving for a rideshare company)
Once a judge has a better idea of the income all parties bring in, they can determine an appropriate amount.
Many people benefit from an experienced divorce lawyer representing their interests when petitioning a judge for alimony.
Types of Alimony You May Receive in Florida
Florida allows five types of alimony, awarded for different circumstances.
Depending on your circumstances, you may receive or need to pay one, none, or a combination of these alimony types:
- Durational Alimony: Provides support for a limited time
- Permanent Alimony: Lasts until the death or remarriage of the recipient
- Pendente Lite Alimony: Is awarded in the period before a final divorce judgment
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: Covers short-term needs for two years while one spouse adjusts to living on their own
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Supports one spouse while they finish school or vocational training
Some forms of alimony can be modified, such as if the recipient completes school or transitions into working full time and has a stable income or if the payee loses their job or income source. All alimony payments terminate upon the death of either spouse or the recipient’s remarriage.
If either party has a change to their income, whether it’s a reduced need for support or a reduced capacity to pay, they must petition a Florida court to reduce the alimony.
How Florida Courts Calculate Alimony Payments
Judges calculate each alimony award on a case-by-case basis, although judges typically use the same criteria for each couple. Your judge will look at your monthly expenses and income and those of your spouse to determine whether you have insufficient funds to meet your needs.
If one party has an obvious need and the other has an obvious ability to pay, the judge will approve alimony. However, that’s just the first step. Your divorce attorney will negotiate the maximum possible amount for you as an alimony recipient.
Factors that contribute to the judge’s decision regarding the amount of alimony include:
- The age of each spouse
- The duration of the marriage
- Any tax liabilities related to alimony
- Time out of the job market for stay-at-home-parents
- The emotional and physical condition of each spouse
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The assets, liabilities, and other financial resources of each party
- Vocational skills, education level, and earning capacity of each spouse
- The number and ages of children, though alimony is separate from child support
The court may require some individuals to take out a life insurance policy and name the other spouse as the beneficiary to secure the alimony.
How Does the Length of Your Marriage Determine Your Alimony in Florida?
The number of years you and your spouse were married influences the amount and duration of alimony.
Florida divides marriages into short-, moderate-, and long-term:
- Short-Term Marriage: Under seven years
- Moderate-Term Marriage: Seven to 17 years
- Long-Term Marriage: More than 17 years
The duration of your marriage is calculated from the date you got married to the date the divorce papers were filed, not the date of the divorce decree.
Spouses in a short-term marriage are eligible to receive (or may be required to pay) bridge-the-gap, durational, and rehabilitative alimony. In rare cases, a court will grant permanent alimony. However, your divorce lawyer will have to construct a strong case for this support, such as your permanently reduced ability to earn a living.
Couples in a moderate-term marriage receive the same options as those in a short-term marriage or the court may require them to pay for these options. Again, the court may consider permanent alimony in special circumstances.
Spouses in a long-term marriage are eligible for all five kinds of alimony or may be required to pay one or more of the five to the other spouse.
Because so many factors go into determining whether alimony is necessary, how much, and for how long, negotiating an equitable arrangement may be difficult without legal representation. A divorce attorney can help you understand what you may seek and whether any special circumstances affect your benefits.
Other Considerations for Florida Alimony Awards
Alimony is not a tax-deductible expense in Florida for the payer; they must pay income tax on all income they receive. By contrast, the spouse receiving alimony payments does not have to pay income tax on the amount they receive.
In cases where one spouse has a high alimony payment, the child support payment may be lowered. The start and end dates for alimony should not be associated with any children, as the IRS may consider those alimony payments as child support payments.
Either spouse may request child support and alimony as long as the court is aware of both petitions.
Modifying Alimony in Florida
If your circumstances, or those of your spouse, change, then either of you may petition the Florida court to change your alimony arrangement.
This may happen after:
- A substantial or permanent change in the income of one party
- An inheritance received by one party
- Retirement of one or both parties
- The death of a child
Modifying an alimony arrangement isn’t guaranteed. Your divorce lawyer can help you draft the proper petition to apply to change your obligation or award.
Do You Need Advice for Your Florida Alimony Arrangement?
Alimony is a consideration if you are going through a divorce in Florida. A divorce lawyer experienced in alimony negotiations can protect you when settling your divorce.