Alimony, Spousal Support and Divorce

During and after divorce some spouses are entitled to alimony or what many call spousal support.  This is a payment by one ex-spouse to the other. In some cases the alimony may be temporary, and in some cases it could be a long-term award.  It is important during the divorce process that clients consider the potential impact of alimony on other factors such as child support and their future goals.

For the last several years, there have been repeated attempts in the Florida state legislature to revise the alimony laws.  Some legislation has come very close to becoming law. It is our belief that this trend will continue and a good chance that spousal support laws will be changed in the foreseeable future.  If you are involved in a pending divorce or considering divorce where alimony is a factor, make sure you discuss the current laws and recent legislative proposals with your attorney so you can evaluate how any proposed changes may affect you.

In the State of Florida, there are several types of alimony.

Bridge-the-gap alimony

This type is designed to assist one party in getting back on their feet and provide short-term assistance in transitioning after a divorce to being single.  For example, it may be to help one party to obtain a new place to live, to relocate or find a new job.  The duration of bridge-the-gap alimony cannot exceed two years.

Rehabilitative alimony

This is awarded to assist a party in receiving additional training or education to become self-sufficient. It may be awarded for example, to allow a spouse to complete college or attend a trade school during or after divorce. It is temporary support and the spouse requesting rehabilitative alimony must have a specific plan to return to school or training. Typically this plan will include taking entrance tests for the education or training program of interest and actually applying for those programs.

Durational alimony

Durational alimony is paid to a party for a defined time-period, most often for a short or moderate term marriage.  The duration of this spousal support may not exceed the length of the marriage. It works substantially the same as permanent alimony (discussed below), but durational has a set term upon which it stops.

Permanent alimony

This type is what many people think of when they hear the term alimony. It is a permanent, long-term, award of support from the higher income earning spouse to the lower incoming earning spouse. Typically, this payment has no ending term, but does terminate upon the death of either spouse or upon re-marriage of the party receiving the support(or living in a substantially supportive relationship). It is usually awarded only for long term marriages of 17 years or longer.  Even though it is titled as ‘permanent’ it is often modifiable in the future based upon an unforeseen substantial change in the income of either party and can be terminated under certain circumstances (other than those stated above).

In 2011, the Florida legislature defined what short, moderate and long-term marriage are:

  • Short-Term marriage is a duration of less than 7 years
  • Moderate-term marriage is a duration of greater than 7 years, but less than 17
  • Long-term marriage is a duration of greater than 17 years.

Unlike child support, there are no worksheets or specific statutory guidelines that a judge must use to calculate alimony other than a spouses need to receive it and the other party’s ability to pay it.  Alimony can be a complex matter in Florida and there are exceptions and limitations.

Affects on Child Support for a Divorcing Couple

During divorce you should keep in mind that durational and permanent alimony can affect child support calculations.  For the purposes of child support, alimony awards are added to the receiver’s income and deducted from the income of the payee. Consequently, any spousal support award must be determined before a final calculation of child support can be made.

Get Experienced Advice About Divorce and Alimony

Every family law situation is unique and alimony can be a complicated aspect of a divorce case.  If you would like advice about spousal support or divorce,  please contact us to set a consultation. In order to provide you with an accurate calculation, you will need to discuss your matter in detail with one of our attorneys who can then provide you with estimated alimony and advice on how to proceed in your situation.