Spousal Support & Florida Alimony Laws
Admittedly, the State of Florida’s alimony laws are in flux. For a long time, alimony was mostly a creature of case law. However, in 2011 the Florida legislature codified alimony and made some tweaks as to certain definitions which had existed in the case law. Since that time, there have already been numerous attempts to change the law even further. At this point it is not a question of will, but a question of when Florida alimony laws will change and what they will be changed to. It is anticipated that the new laws will change the definition of certain terms further and do away with certain types of alimony. However, even when these changes go into effect, parties will be dealing with the different forms of alimony for quite some time due to inevitable modification actions.
Orlando Divorce Lawyers
Due to the near constant changing of the law on this aspect of family law, we strongly suggest you meet with a family law attorney to discuss the current status of alimony law.
Types of Alimony
The different forms of alimony are, at the time of the drafting of this entry:
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony,
- Durational Alimony,
- Permanent Alimony,
- Rehabilitative Alimony, and
- Temporary Alimony.
There are other forms of alimony not contemplated by the statute and which a court cannot order without consent of the parties which deserve some discussion, including Lump Sum Alimony and Non-Modifiable Alimony.
However, regardless of the form of alimony or the length of the marriage, the first two questions that must be asked are:
- “Does a party have a need of support?” and
- “Does the other party have the ability to pay support?”
If the answer is “no” to either of these questions, then the remainder of the analysis is largely moot.
Awarding Alimony in Florida
If, instead, the answer is yes to both of these inquiries, the court looks to the following factors to determine the nature and amount of alimony to be awarded:
- The standard of living established during the marriage.
- The duration of the marriage (less than 7 years: short-term marriage; more than 7 years but less than 17 years: moderate-term marriage; 17 years or more: long-term marriage)
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
- The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital 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.
The purpose of bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs, and the length of an award may not exceed 2 years. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony shall not be modifiable in amount or duration.
Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. An award of durational alimony 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 Statutes 61.14. However, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
Permanent 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 lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage.
Permanent alimony may be awarded:
- following a marriage of long duration if such an award is appropriate upon consideration of the factors set forth in Florida Statutes 61.08 (2),
- following a marriage of moderate duration if such an award is appropriate based upon clear and convincing evidence after consideration of the factors set forth in Florida Statutes 61.08 (2), or
- following a marriage of short duration if there are written findings of exceptional circumstances.
In awarding permanent alimony, the court shall include a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties. An award of permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. 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 Florida Statutes 61.14.
Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either:
- The redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or
- The acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials.
In order to award rehabilitative alimony, there must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan which shall be included as a part of any order awarding rehabilitative alimony.
An award of rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated in accordance with Florida Statutes 61.14 based upon a substantial change in circumstances, upon noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or upon completion of the rehabilitative plan.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony is not a statutory recognized form of alimony. It carries with it certain advantages and disadvantages for both the payor and the payee. However, it may be an attractive option given particular circumstances. Lump sum alimony allows the receiver of the payment to have knowledge that the amount is paid and not subject to modification or non-payment. At the same time, if lump sum alimony is the only alimony vehicle in your resolution and you still have a need for support, you are precluded from an upward modification if your former spouse’s income improves to a level where your need could be covered. Depending on how the language of lump sum alimony is worked into your agreement, it could essentially be categorized as inequitable distribution allowing you to avoid the tax ramification of an actual alimony award.
Non-Modifiable alimony as to amount, duration or both is never ordered by the court. This type of alimony is only a creature of agreement. Again, as with lump sum alimony, it carries pros and cons for both the payor and the payee. Essentially, one party gains certainty but is denied ability to modify based on increased need, decreased need, increased ability to pay, or decreased ability to pay. Further, given recent case law, it is essential that you define non-modifiable alimony to be exactly what you intend it to be (if it is non-modifiable as to amount, duration, or both). Further, unless you wish to be stuck with alimony that does not terminate upon remarriage or cohabitation in a supportive relationship by the former-spouse, it is best to make sure you have retained that ability to terminate alimony despite the non-modifiable monicker.
Contact an Orlando Divorce Attorney
At The Smith Family Law Firm, we want to help you through your divorce so that you and your family can have a fresh start and a bright future. It can be impossible to correctly calculate alimony payments on your own because the award takes many factors into consideration. It's important to contact a qualified divorce attorney at our Orlando law firm so that you can know for certain the alimony or spousal support award is fair. Don't rely on your former spouse's family law attorney to be fair, as some divorce lawyers are in it for a payout and not to truly help your family.
The time to consider what you owe in alimony, or what you will receive in alimony, is before you file for divorce. Contact our family law office as soon as possible so that we can help your divorce go as smoothly as possible.