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Should You Expect Alimony? How It Works In Florida

David Scott, P.A. Aug. 20, 2022

A divorce is stressful for all aspects of your life, especially when you consider how it will affect your finances. Not only is a divorce expensive on its own, but you also need to think about how you will support yourself on one income instead of two.

Depending on the specific circumstances of your marriage and divorce, you might be entitled to receive alimony, or you might have to pay alimony.

In the case where one spouse earns more than the other spouse, alimony can be awarded to the spouse who needs financial assistance. In order to receive alimony, you have to fulfill three main requirements:

  • The marriage has to be legal in Florida;

  • The spouse requesting alimony has to have a financial need for assistance; and

  • The other spouse has to be able to pay alimony.

Once those requirements are met, the courts will decide how much alimony will be awarded.

What Determines the Amount of Alimony?

When you’re dealing with child support, there’s a specific formula for determining the amount of child support one spouse has to pay. The court will look at the number of children in the marriage and the income of both parents, along with other necessary expenses. Then, based on those numbers, you can look at the guidelines in the Florida statutes to figure out exactly how much your monthly child support payments will be.

Alimony isn’t as cut and dry as child support. There isn’t a formula you can plug numbers into. Instead, alimony relies on your specific circumstances and what a judge determines to be fair based on those circumstances. For this reason, alimony awards can vary greatly – even in similar situations.

According to the Florida alimony statute, the court will look at all relevant factors, including:

  • The marital standard of living

  • How long the marriage was

  • The age of both spouses

  • The physical and emotional condition of both spouses

  • The financial resources and assets of both spouses

  • The earning capacities, education, and employability of both spouses

  • The marital contributions for both spouses

  • Parental responsibilities for both spouses

  • Taxes and other income

These details will not only help a judge decide how much alimony to award, but it will also help a judge decide what type of alimony to award.

Types of Alimony

 There are five different types of alimony available depending on your specific situation:

  • Temporary alimony – or alimony pendent lite – is awarded during the divorce proceedings. Once the divorce is final, however, the temporary alimony payments will stop and can possibly be replaced by another type of alimony.

  • Bridge the gap alimony is awarded for the short-term – a couple months up to a few years – to help the economically weaker spouse transition to be able to support himself or herself.

  • Rehabilitation alimony is awarded to help one spouse get training or education in order to get employment. Along with rehabilitation alimony, the spouse will need to submit a specific plan detailing the amount of time and costs involved before the spouse will be self sufficient.

  • Durational alimony is often awarded during a shorter marriage and when the other types of alimony don’t fit the divorcing couple’s situation. With durational alimony, the award is a set amount over a period of time that doesn’t exceed the length of the marriage. For example, if a couple is married for three years and one spouse is awarded durational alimony, the alimony won’t exceed three years.

  • Permanent alimony is typically awarded to marriages longer than 15 years or where there is a major income difference.

Permanent, durational, and bridge-the-gap alimony payments are made until the death of either spouse or until the alimony term is complete. Alimony payments will also stop when the receiving spouse remarries.

Can Alimony Be Changed?

If no alimony is awarded during the divorce, you won’t be able to add alimony in the future. Sometimes, though, if you have a substantial change in circumstances, you can modify the original alimony arrangement. A “substantial change in circumstances” has to be significant, involuntary, material, and unanticipated.

 A substantial change could include:

  • Large inheritance

  • Health issues

  • Gifts

  • New, larger salary

  • Winning the lottery

  • Retirement

  • Long-term unemployment]

  • Remarriage

  • Fraud

If, however, you make a voluntary change to your finances, it isn’t guaranteed that the court will allow alimony to be modified. For example, if the spouse paying alimony gets remarried and now has more expenses to worry about, the original alimony agreement from the first marriage can’t be changed.

Alimony exists to help one spouse maintain the standard of living they had before their divorce. If you’re going through a divorce and have questions about alimony, contact an experienced Florida divorce attorney today to get the answers you need.