The purpose of alimony in Florida is to provide financial assistance to the economically weaker spouse. In order to even be considered for an entitlement to alimony, there has to be
- a legal marriage
- a need for financial assistance on the part of the requesting spouse; and
- the other spouse has to have an ability to pay the alimony.
Unlike child support awards in the state of Florida, there is currently no mathematical formula to calculate alimony.
About Alimony in Florida
Although alimony awards can be difficult to predict, there are guidelines that the court must follow in determining whether to award alimony, and how much alimony to award.
Types of Alimony in Florida
In Florida, there are six (6) types of alimony that may be available to a party in a dissolution of marriage action, of which four are relatively distinct and two that are not, all of the forms of alimony are listed as follows:
• Permanent Periodic Alimony:
This type of alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a party who does not have the financial ability to meet his or her basic needs and necessities of life. The length of your marriage and any disparity in income are the main factors that a court will consider in awarding permanent periodic alimony. Permanent periodic alimony continues until the death of either party, the remarriage of the recipient spouse, or cohabitation in a financially supportive relationship. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of long duration (more than 17 years) where there is a disparity in income, following a marriage of moderate duration (7 to 17 years) if such an award is appropriate based upon clear and convincing evidence, or following a marriage of short duration (less than 7 years) if there are exceptional circumstances (ie. poor health and/or disability of the spouse preventing him/her from obtaining employment). The court has to make a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties. An award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship in accordance with s. 61.14.
• Durational Alimony:
This type of alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. Florida Statute § 61.08 fashioned Durational Alimony as another option for the Courts to apply to provide for an equal playing field for the parties. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time (which cannot exceed the length of the marriage) following a dissolution of marriage if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. This does not necessarily mean, however, that the Court must award the receiving spouse Durational alimony for the total length of the marriage. An award of durational alimony generally terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. The amount of an award of durational alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances in accordance with Florida Statute § 61.14. The length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances.
• Rehabilitation Alimony:
This type of alimony is paid over a definitive time period to allow a party the chance to become self supporting by obtaining the necessary education and training to gain new employment skills. This can include vocational school or college. An individual may be awarded another form of alimony along with rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony may be awarded in a short-term marriage where one spouse has stayed home to take care of the children and needs education or training to re-enter the work force. It should be noted that in order to make an award of rehabilitative alimony, there must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan. Also, an award of rehabilitative alimony can be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances, or noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or upon early completion of the rehabilitative plan.
• Bridge the Gap Alimony:
This type of alimony is a short-term alimony which last few months to a couple of years and it is designed to assist a person in transitioning from being married to single. A party may need time to get a job or money to establish a new residence. May be given in a short-term marriage where there is a disparity in income. The length of an award may not exceed two (2) years and generally terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. According to Florida Statute § 61.08, an award of bridge-the-gap alimony shall not be modifiable in amount or duration.
• Temporary Alimony:
This type of alimony is awarded during the pendency of the divorce, meaning an award for on-going support during the course of your divorce action. Although temporary alimony is not considered one of the four distinct types of alimony, temporary alimony is commonly requested immediately after filing for a divorce and before a final judgment is reached. It should be noted that temporary alimony awards can be made retroactive to the date when the original petition for temporary assistance was filed if the need existed at that time and the payor spouse had the ability to pay. The fact that the Court can grant Temporary Alimony is significant as, depending on the back-log of cases on the Court’s docket, such request may not be heard for months after filing for divorce. Temporary Alimony can require one spouse to pay for the other spouse’s attorney’s fees, if warranted.
• Lump Sum Alimony:
This type of alimony is paid in a lump sum of money, typically when ongoing monthly payments are not proper, fitting or practical.