When people divorce, it is inevitably to think about alimony. In Black’s Law Dictionary 9th Edition, alimony is defined as “[a] court-ordered allowance that one spouse pays to the other spouse for maintenance and support while they are separated, while they are involved in a matrimonial law suit, or after they are divorced.” Alimony may be one of the most loathed, dreaded, wanted, and battled subjects in the Florida Family Courts.
People often think that alimony is paid on a monthly basis, but it can also be awarded in a lump sum or as a combination of the two. Alimony or maintenance payments are not meant to punish one party, but is a recognition that one spouse may have better resources and skills than the other. In other words, it is a way to level the playing field. In Florida, as a rule, one spouse has to have the need for alimony and the other spouse has to have the ability to pay alimony. Depending on your case, you might be the one receiving alimony, or the one ordered to pay alimony.
Florida factors in the award of alimony
When determining an award of alimony, the court will first make a specific factual determination as to one party’s actual need for alimony or maintenance, and the other party’s actual ability to pay alimony or maintenance to the other party.
Pursuant to Fla. Stat §61.08 (2), the court will consider financial factors as well as non-monetary factors such as standard of living during the couple’s marriage. Fla. Stat. §61.08 (2) lists eight factors that the court will take into considerations:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
- The financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
- The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
- All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
If during the marriage one spouse engaged in adultery and as a result that party wasted marital assets, the court may consider the circumstances thereof to help determine whether alimony is awarded.
The length of the marriage is also very important in determining alimony, and may be classified as follows:
- Short-term – A marriage that lasted fewer than seven (7) years.
- Moderate-term – A marriage that lasts 7 or more years, but fewer than seventeen (17) years.
- Long-term – A marriage that lasts 17 or more years.
Under Florida law, the court may grant alimony to either party. The US Supreme Court has held unconstitutional a statute that imposes alimony obligations on the husband only. See Orr v. Orr, 440 U.S. 268, 99 S. Ct. 1102 (1979).
Alimony can be in the form of:
- Temporary alimony –Also known as alimony pendent lite, it awarded during the divorce proceeding, which is automatically terminated once the divorce is final, and could be replaced by any other types of alimony.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony – This alimony is intended to help a spouse to make a transition from being married to being single, by allocating the funds necessary to pay foreseeable and identifiable bills associated with re-starting a life without a spouse. It will terminate upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the receiving party. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony shall not be modifiable in amount or duration, and the length may not exceed 2 years.
- Rehabilitative alimony – This type of alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse who may need to pursue other educational programs or specific training skills in order to obtain employment that will allow for self-support. When a court grants a party rehabilitative alimony, the order needs to include a specific and defined plan. This alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances, noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or completion of the rehabilitative plan.
- Durational alimony – This is often awarded in the instance of a short or moderate-term marriage, when the other types of alimony do not fit the circumstances of the divorcing couple. It is awarded as a set amount over a pre-determined period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage. For example, if you were married for 10 years, this alimony cannot be awarded longer than 10 years. It terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony, and it can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances, but modification only will apply to the amount of the award and not the length of time.
- Permanent alimony – This award is usually granted in moderate and long-term marriages, but could also be available for a short-term marriage under exceptional circumstances. Permanent alimony may be awarded to a spouse who lacks the financial ability to achieve the lifestyle set by the marriage. This is a very subjective standard and the court will need to review the couple’s life during the marriage to determine what is reasonable for a person to maintain a similar lifestyle after the divorce. Permanent alimony can be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship.
Nowadays, most marriages include dual income households, where women are earning wages and are viewed less dependent by the courts. Also, men have started to become equal time-sharing parents, which has caused the tradition of men paying women alimony payments to shift. The rise of women paying alimony to men is on the rise.
Understanding your options when it comes to alimony is an important task that Seff & Capizzi Law Group considers during any divorce. At Seff & Capizzi Law Group, we regularly assist clients with their divorce cases and provide valuable information for those that need assistance in understanding how to approach this situation in their own lives.
If you need assistance with collecting or receiving alimony payments, please call us at (954) 920-9220. We have over 40 years of experience and offer a free consultation. Click here for more information about our family law practice and how Seff & Capizzi can help.