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Alimony

Florida Alimony

Two generations ago, it was taken for granted that a woman would likely stay home with her children while a man worked outside the home to support the family. When parents divorced, though, this arrangement could leave women impoverished and destitute. Alimony endeavored to bridge that gap by compensating women for their work inside of the home and enabling them to get back on their feet. Today, alimony is much less common than it was a generation ago, and anyone – male or female – can seek spousal support.

How is Alimony determined?

In Florida alimony or spousal support is determined by a myriad of factors. Though alimony was once associated with women, both men and women are eligible for spousal support. In colloquial use, “palimony” refers to alimony paid to men. Practically speaking, though, there’s no legal difference between alimony for men and women; courts refer to both as spousal support.

Alimony is not automatic. Indeed, it’s increasingly harder to get. Courts will take into account myriad factors when determining whether you’re eligible for alimony. Those factors include:

  • Your spouse’s income and ability to pay.
  • Your income and assets, as well as your future earning power.
  • Your role in the marriage. For instance, did you give up a lucrative career to raise kids, or work full-time while your spouse attended law school?
  • The length of your marriage. Short marriages are unlikely to result in alimony awards, especially not large awards.
  • Whether you and your spouse have an express or implied agreement to share property, divvy up your labor, or support one another as you pursue career or family goals.
  • Ultimately, it will come down to a question of whether you provided something valuable to the marriage and your spouse can afford to compensate you for that.

The 5 Types of Alimony

Bridge the Gap Alimony

“Bridge the gap” alimony is a short-term alimony award that begins after the divorce is final. It is designed to aid in the financial difficulties involved with transitioning from married to single life. This form of alimony should only be ordered when the receiving party has specific short term financial needs, and usually should not continue for longer than two years. Bridge the gap alimony is typically found in short term marriages where rehabilitative alimony is not justified. Like rehabilitative alimony, it may be combined with a permanent alimony award. Bridge the gap alimony should not be modified in amount or duration and will cease upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the receiving party.

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony is alimony which supports you only during the pendency of the divorce.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is an alimony award given in order to provide the receiving spouse with assistance during the time needed to attain novel skills to improve employment potential. Rehabilitative alimony awards can be ordered alone or in a combination with a permanent alimony plan. Rehabilitative alimony will only be given if factual evidence is presented to the court showing the receiving spouse has lost or damaged his/her ability to self support during the marriage, and has a detailed rehabilitation plan. A spouse simply desiring to further his/her education is generally not grounds for rehabilitative alimony. If there is evidence that the marriage did not hinder the receiving spouse’s ability to provide for his/herself then rehabilitative alimony is not justified. Rehabilitative alimony is not necessarily given on the grounds that the receiving spouse will become entirely self sufficient. A spouse may be awarded rehabilitative alimony in order to become as self-supporting as possible, but still may need permanent alimony. The additional alimony payments will be reduced to the extent that the receiving spouse can provide for his/herself.

Durational Alimony

This is a supplemental form of alimony a court can award at its discretion if other forms of alimony are not allowed or are inadequate. The maximum amount of time for which you can receive this alimony is the length of your marriage. In other words, if you were married five years, this alimony is limited to five years.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent Alimony is the rarest type of alimony in Florida and is awarded only if it appears that your economic need will be permanent. The judge generally has to cite a specific reason for awarding such alimony.

Below is a list of commonly asked questions that our West Palm Beach Family Law Attorneys receive about whether a client can receive alimony or be required to pay alimony. Clicking each question listed below will provide you with a detailed answer.

Alimony can be reduced or terminated if the paying spouse can prove to the court that the recipient has entered into a “supportive relationship.” The conditions for a supportive relationship are given in F.S. 61.14(1)(b)2 and are as follow      The extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as “my husband” or “my wife,” or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship;

  • The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode;
  • The extent to which the obligee and the other person have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence;
  • The extent to which the obligee of the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part;
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other;
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer;
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value;
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property;
  • Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support;
  • Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support; and
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of an legal duty to do so.

Alimony can be reduced or terminated if the paying spouse can prove to the court that the recipient has entered into a “supportive relationship.” The conditions for a supportive relationship are given in F.S. 61.14(1)(b)2 and are as follow      The extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as “my husband” or “my wife,” or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship;

  • The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode;
  • The extent to which the obligee and the other person have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence;
  • The extent to which the obligee of the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part;
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other;
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer;
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value;
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property;
  • Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support;
  • Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support; and
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of an legal duty to do so.

Nominal alimony is a form of permanent periodic alimony ordered when the receiving spouse exhibits financial need but the payer spouse’s current ability to pay is inadequate because of child support, work related injury, temporary unemployment, etc. The court may then order the obligor spouse to pay an arbitrarily small amount, such as one dollar per year, in order to reserve the jurisdiction to modify the alimony award in the future if the obligor spouse’s ability to pay increases.

Lump sum alimony is a complicated area of Florida divorce law and has seen many contradicting court rulings over the years. It is a form of alimony awarded as a lump sum, and is not subject to modification or termination in the case of death or remarriage of either party. The conditions for lump sum alimony are as follows: (1) the award must be specified as either needed for support, or for use as an equalizing payment in equitable distribution of marital assets; and (2) if used for support, there must be special circumstances in the case which call for a non-modifiable amount of support. Lump sum alimony is often used as the basis to award the marital home/property to one spouse. Often times if the paying spouse cannot afford alimony payments at the time of divorce, the court will grant his/her share of a property or business to the recipient spouse as payment. When the paying spouse can afford to do so, the court may order a lump sum alimony award at the time of divorce in order to sever all ties between the two parties. Lump sum alimony may be combined with permanent alimony plan if the recipient spouse requires a greater amount of support early on.

61.12 Attachment or garnishment of amounts due for alimony or child support.

(1) So much as the court orders of the money or other things due to any person or public officer, state or county, whether the head of a family residing in this state or not, when the money or other thing is due for the personal labor or service of the person or otherwise, is subject to attachment or garnishment to enforce and satisfy the orders and judgments of the court of this state for alimony, suit money, or child support, or other orders in proceedings for dissolution, alimony, or child support; when the money or other thing sought to be attached or garnisheed is the salary of a public officer, state or county, the writ of attachment or garnishment shall be served on the public officer whose duty it is to pay the salary, who shall obey the writ as provided by law in other cases. It is the duty of the officer to notify the public officer whose duty it is to audit or issue a warrant for the salary sought to be attached immediately upon service of the writ. A warrant for as much of the salary as is ordered held under the writ shall not issue except pursuant to court order unless the writ is dissolved. No more of the salary shall be retained by virtue of the writ than is provided for in the order.

(2) The provisions of chapter 77 or any other provision of law to the contrary notwithstanding, the court may issue a continuing writ of garnishment to an employer to enforce the order of the court for periodic payment of alimony or child support or both. The writ may provide that the salary of any person having a duty of support pursuant to such order be garnisheed on a periodic and continuing basis for so long as the court may determine or until otherwise ordered by the court or a court of competent jurisdiction in a further proceeding. Any disciplinary action against the employee by an employer to whom a writ is issued pursuant to this section solely because such writ is in effect constitutes a contempt of court, and the court may enter such order as it deems just

The court possesses the authority to require one party to pay for the other party’s medical insurance premiums as part of an alimony award. The court must determine that the insurance premiums are reasonable to the financial ability of the payer and the obligation must also not be for an indefinite amount of time. It is good practice to restrict the health insurance obligation to a detailed amount and duration. The court should not order such health payments unless they are specifically requested by one party.

The court is granted the authority in F.S. 61.08 (3) to order any party required to pay alimony “to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy… to otherwise secure such alimony award.” Although alimony payments are supposed stop at the time of either spouse’s death, the court has ruled that life insurance income does not qualify as postmortem alimony since the payments are made by an insurance company rather than the deceased party’s estate. In practice, the courts have used much discretion in ordering life insurance. Life insurance orders are typically not given unless the receiving party requests his/her alimony award to be secured, can provide evidence that such security is needed, and said security is within the financial abilities of the payer.

If a spouse is unemployed and if it is reasonable that the unemployed receiving party will become self-supportive in the future, the court may rule in favor of rehabilitative alimony rather than permanent. In this case, the receiving party’s current employment potential is a major factor in determining the amount and duration of the rehabilitative or permanent alimony award. The court must consider the amount of time and/or additional education and training needed for the receiving spouse to become self-supportive. After the rehabilitative period has concluded, if the receiving spouse is still not able to support his/herself, the court may rule for an extension of rehabilitative alimony or for a permanent alimony award. There are cases where a court may rule in favor of permanent alimony, rather than rehabilitative, even if there is a high possibility that the receiving party may become self-supportive. In the case of a minor child, the court may determine it is in the best interest of the child for the receiving spouse to maintain the duties of a “full-time parent,” and therefore not become employed. In this instance, permanent alimony would be appropriate.

In determining alimony, F.S. 61.08(2)(d) requires the court to consider “the financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.”If both parties have approximately the same income and assets at the time of the divorce, the court may determine that alimony is not justified. Even if the paying party demonstrates a great financial ability to pay, alimony should be restricted to the needs of the receiving party. Although the court will consider marital and non-marital assets, the paying spouse should not be required to sell assets in order to fund alimony payments. This principle applies equally to the receiving spouse, as he/she should not be required to sell assets in order to be self-supportive.

The age and emotional well being of a party may have a great impact on the amount of a permanent alimony award if strong evidence supports a party’s claim. Even in the case of very short-term marriages, if it can be proven to the court that one party is unable to provide for his/herself because of age or emotional well-being, permanent alimony may be granted. The court not only looks at the well being of the receiving party, but the paying party as well. If the paying spouse is injured and can no longer work, this may be factored into the court’s decision of determining alimony. The court should only consider present conditions when investigating the age and condition of the parties. If it is evident that one party may in the future have a condition which leads to he/she becoming incapable of self support, the court should not factor this into its ruling regarding alimony. Any future change in physical/emotional well-being should be dealt with in modification proceedings when its damage is occurring and evident.

By and large, yes, a longer marriage will typically lead to a larger alimony award. The duration of marriage is an important factor in the process of determining whether alimony is justified and the amount of said alimony award. Generally, in short-term marriages, permanent alimony is not granted unless there is clear evidence that the marriage and divorce directly lead to inequity in a party’s financial positions. There is no clear line determining what is a short-term marriage and what is a long term marriage. F.S. 61.08 (4) addresses the issue of marriage length stating “for the purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than seven years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than seven years but less than 17 years, and a long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years of greater.” Notice the phrase “rebuttable presumption,” which has been the cause for many conflicting trial court rulings. There is no guarantee as to how the court will classify a marriage and what effect this will have on an alimony award. However, in practice, in Palm Beach County divorces, a long-term marriage tends to be followed by a larger permanent alimony award.

The standard of living exemplified during the marriage is very important to the process of determining the amount of an alimony award. Standard of living is the best means to establish the financial needs of the receiving party and the financial ability of the paying party. An alimony award should not be limited to the amount of bare minimal need, but rather should provide enough support for the receiving party to “maintain his/herself in the style to which he/she is accustomed.” Angelides v. Angelides, 466 So.2d 1198,1199 (Fla. 3d DCA 1985). However, if it is shown that the parties lived beyond their means throughout the duration of the marriage, the payer spouse should not be expected to make alimony payments beyond his/her means. Determining financial need and ability in the case of high income marriages is a very complicated area of Florida divorce law. It is common for a attorneys to call in forensic accountants and/or economists to analyze financial records and determine the standard of living of the marriage. If the payer’s income is too low at the time of the divorce to support the standard of living shown during the marriage, the court may order a reservation of jurisdiction. This grants the court the ability to modify the alimony payments later on if the payer’s income should rise. If the standard of living exemplified during the marriage required the assistance of non-marital assets, the court may also consider said non-marital assets when determining alimony payments.

Temporary alimony is also based upon the financial need of the petitioning spouse and the ability to pay of the other spouse. However, marital misconduct will be considered in determining an award of temporary alimony if said misconduct reflects a lack of dependence from the petitioning spouse. Abandonment of the marriage is an example of misconduct that shows a lack of dependence. If the party seeking alimony has left his/her spouse and shows no need for financial support, the court may consider this while awarding alimony.

Alimony can be reduced or terminated if the paying spouse can prove to the court that the recipient has entered into a “supportive relationship.” The conditions for a supportive relationship are given in F.S. 61.14(1)(b)2 and are as follows:

-The extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as “my husband” or “my wife,” or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship;

-The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode;

-The extent to which the obligee and the other person have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence;

-The extent to which the obligee of the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part;

-The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other;

-The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer;

-Whether the obligee and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value;

-Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property;

-Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support;

-Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support; and

-Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of an legal duty to do so.

The court can award alimony as periodic, lump sum, or some combination of the two. Often times, when there is an issue of marital misconduct the court will order a lump sum payment. The reason being the court wants to sever all ties between the two parties. Having periodic payment of alimony requires more contact between spouses, which in many cases can lead to further problems or litigation.

When a request for alimony is made the court will first make a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony.

If the court finds that a party has a need for alimony and that the other party has the ability to pay alimony, then in determining the proper type and amount of the court will consider a number of factors, including, but not limited to:

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage.
  2. The duration of the marriage.
  3. The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
  4. The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
  8. 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.
  9. All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.

How long do you have to pay alimony in Florida?

The court will factor in the length of the marriage and also the how long you pay alimony will depend on what type of alimony the courts determines is appropriate.

Long Term Marriage:  Anything over 17 years

Moderate Term Marriage:  7 – 17 years

Short Term Marriage – Less than 7 years

Permanent Alimony is Awarded for Long Term Marriages

However keep in mind that permanent alimony is the rarest type of alimony in Florida and  is awarded only if it appears that your economic need will be permanent. The judge generally has to cite a specific reason for awarding such alimony.

Bridge the Gap Alimony Generally Awarded in Short Term Marriages

“Bridge the gap” alimony is a short-term alimony award that begins after the divorce is final. It usually does not continue beyond 2 years. It is designed to aid in the financial difficulties involved with transitioning from married to single life. This form of alimony should only be ordered when the receiving party has specific short term financial needs, and usually should not continue for longer than two years. Bridge the gap alimony is typically found in short term marriages where rehabilitative alimony is not justified. Like rehabilitative alimony, it may be combined with a permanent alimony award. Bridge the gap alimony should not be modified in amount or duration and will cease upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the receiving party.

Durational Alimony

Durational alimony is for a set period of time.The maximum amount of time for which you can receive this alimony is the length of your marriage. It is generally for short or moderate duration marriages. This is a supplemental form of alimony a court can award at its discretion if other forms of alimony are not allowed or are inadequate.  In other words, if you were married five years, this alimony is limited to five years.

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony is alimony which supports you only during the pendency of the divorce.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is an alimony award given in order to provide the receiving spouse with assistance during the time needed to attain novel skills to improve employment potential. Rehabilitative alimony awards can be ordered alone or in a combination with a permanent alimony plan. Rehabilitative alimony will only be given if factual evidence is presented to the court showing the receiving spouse has lost or damaged his/her ability to self support during the marriage, and has a detailed rehabilitation plan.

Lifetime alimony which is called Permanent Alimony is the rarest type of alimony in Florida and  is awarded only if it appears that your economic need will be permanent. The judge generally has to cite a specific reason for awarding such alimony.  It is also only considered in Long-Term marriages which are marriages lasting 17 years or older.

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