How Does the Court Determine an Alimony Award in Florida?
Alimony is a support payment made from one divorced spouse to the other pursuant to a divorce decree or final judgment of dissolution of marriage. Alimony is available to either spouse, whether husband or wife, but not all cases will involve or result in alimony. Determinations of alimony are made on a case by case basis, at the discretion of the court. Unlike child support, there is no prescribed formula to arrive at an amount for alimony.
Although there are many factors the court weighs when determining alimony, primary considerations include need and ability, length of the marriage, standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, age of the spouses, contributions of each spouse to the marriage (including homemaking, child care, education and career building of the other spouse) and the emotional and physical health of the parties. Although adultery is listed as a statutory factor for the court to consider, typically the adulterous spouse must have wasted or spent marital funds on the affair in order for adultery to effect an alimony award.
Under Florida’s current alimony law, the spouse requesting alimony must first prove a financial need for alimony. Next, one must prove that his or her spouse has the ability to pay alimony. Short term marriages are less than seven years, moderate term marriages are between seven and 17 years and long term marriages are those in excess of 17 years. As a general rule, the longer the marriage the more likely an award of alimony.
There are several types of alimony in Florida. Bridge-the-gap alimony is awarded to facilitate the transition from being married to single life, but this award may not exceed two years. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to aid the needy spouse with education or training to become self-supporting. Although there is no defined time period, a rehabilitative alimony award must be tailored to a specific rehabilitation plan and it usually lasts for one to four years. Durational alimony is awarded when permanent alimony is inappropriate but a spouse needs financial support for a set period of time. An award of durational alimony may not exceed the length of the marriage itself. And, finally, there is the frequently litigated permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is often awarded after a long term marriage but may be awarded after a marriage of moderate duration, if appropriate. Although it is rare, permanent alimony can awarded after a short term marriage, but only under exceptional circumstances. Permanent means until either party dies or the receiving spouse remarries.
Alimony may be modified or terminated when there has been a substantial change of circumstances for one or both of the parties or when the receiving party has entered into a supportive relationship.
The Rice & Rose Law Firm has been assisting spouses and parents with divorce and family law matters in Volusia and Flagler Counties for over 25 years. Call or e-mail our experienced attorneys and staff if you have questions about a divorce and alimony.