October 15, 2022
Alimony is available in Florida divorce cases, but any experienced divorce lawyer will tell you that it is not guaranteed. Which spouse pays alimony? After considering a multitude of factors, the courts decide whether alimony is appropriate or not. They also determine the duration, the amount, and the conditions of alimony.
If you are dealing with alimony issues, a spousal support lawyer can help you protect your interests, whether you’re seeking alimony or defending against a demand for alimony.
When Do the Courts Award Alimony?
The main purpose of alimony in Florida is to help one spouse maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage. As such, the spouse who makes the most money is typically the one who pays alimony. However, just because one spouse makes more than the other does not mean the courts will automatically award alimony.
To get alimony, your divorce lawyer must demonstrate that you need it to maintain your standard of living. You must also demonstrate that your spouse has the means to pay the alimony. For example, alimony would probably not be appropriate if two spouses earn the same or similar salaries.
Regarding the timing of alimony, most court-ordered alimony payments occur after a divorce is filed or finalized. However, under certain circumstances, a spouse may have their divorce attorney demand alimony even when no dissolution of marriage has occurred. Specifically, a spouse may have their divorce lawyer demand alimony and child support when the other fails to contribute to their spouse’s maintenance and their child’s support.
Amount and Type of Alimony
Assuming the court finds cause for alimony, it will have to determine what type of alimony to award.
Several considerations are taken into account to accomplish this task, including but not limited to:
- The standard of living the married couple enjoyed
- How long the marriage lasted
- The age, physical, and emotional health of the spouses
- The financial health of each spouse
- Each spouse’s ability to earn
- The prior contribution each spouse made to the marriage
- Child rearing responsibilities
Essentially, the court can use anything your divorce attorney presents that is relevant and may be helpful to the court in making a decision. One factor not used in the court’s decision-making process is the sex of the spouse. However, the court can use evidence of adultery.
Although adultery in and of itself does not directly establish the need for alimony, the actions of the adulterous spouse may have an effect on any awards for alimony. For example, if a spouse used marital assets to fund their affair, your divorce lawyer can present evidence of these expenditures to the court during alimony calculations.
Bridge the Gap Alimony
Not many states offer bridge-the-gap alimony. Florida family law allows a spouse to seek this type of alimony to assist them in their transition into single life. As it is meant to be temporary, bridge-the-gap alimony can only last for two years. Additionally, payments cease once the spouse receiving them remarries. They also cease upon the payor’s death.
Bridge-the-gap alimony payments usually go toward living expenses and give the receiving spouse financial breathing room to complete their transitions. Once a bridge-the-gap order has been made, the parties may not modify it.
Durational alimony consists of maintenance payments that last a specific period of time. Although they are a type of temporary alimony, they last much longer than the two years given for temporary alimony orders. Durational alimony has a ten-year limit. However, an award for durational alimony can not be longer than the length of the marriage. So a marriage of five years would not see a spouse receiving more than five years of support.
Rehabilitative alimony is appropriate in cases where one spouse has a viable plan to enter or return to the workforce. The plan typically includes a training or educational component, the completion of which should lead to increased employment and financial opportunities.
To receive rehabilitative alimony, the demanding spouse must develop and present a detailed, reasonable plan that demonstrates their proposed path to financial independence. If their plan is approved, the spouse must comply with it or face an end to payments. When the plan ends, the payments end.
Permanent alimony can be life-changing for both spouses. Orders of this nature are rare and typically arise when one of the spouses cannot ever reach a point of financial independence. For example, a disabled or elderly spouse who can not work might be an appropriate candidate for permanent disability. The existence of a special needs child might also lead to permanent alimony payments for the caregiving spouse.
The duration of the marriage factors into a judge’s decision to award permanent alimony. Generally, the longer the marriage, the more chance permanent alimony will be awarded. If a marriage only lasted for a short period, exceptional circumstances would have to exist to achieve a permanent alimony order.
Changes to Alimony Orders
As mentioned, changes to alimony orders can be challenging. However, under the appropriate circumstances, a petition for a change may be granted, except in the case of bridge-the-gap alimony orders. To be successful, the spouse requesting the change must have their divorce lawyer show that the parties’ circumstances have substantially changed.
Changes that may be viewed as significant include:
- Extended unemployment
- The paying spouse’s retirement
- Gifts and lottery winnings
- A large inheritance
- Remarriage by the payee
- Debilitating health issues for the payor
In addition to proving a substantial change, the petitioner’s divorce attorney must also demonstrate that the change was unanticipated during the divorce proceedings and is a permanent situation.
Alimony issues are unpredictable and often life-changing. You can protect your interests by speaking with a divorce attorney early in the divorce process. Schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney and get peace of mind that they will represent your interests.