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Alimony is a support payment made from one spouse to another based on the receiving spouse’s need for support and the paying spouse’s ability of to pay.  Alimony is a complex legal issue, over which courts have great discretion. It is available to either spouse, whether husband or wife, but not all cases will involve or result in spousal support. Determinations of alimony are made on a case by case basis, at the discretion of the court.  For tax purposes, alimony is usually structured so that payments are tax deductible for the payor spouse and included as gross income to the receiving spouse.

Pursuant to changes in the alimony statute effective January 1, 2011, the legislature defined a short term marriage as one of less than 7 years, a moderate term marriage as one of more than 7 years but less than 17 years and a long term marriage as one of 17 years or more. The appropriate type of alimony, if any, is often a function of the length of the marriage coupled with the ability and needs of the respective spouses.

There are several different types of alimony, and the type awarded, if any, will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. 

Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to facilitate the transition from being married to being single and is intended to help a spouse with specific short-term needs. This type of alimony may not exceed 2 years, and neither the amount nor the duration of the award can be modified.

Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to assist a spouse in obtaining training and/or education to secure employment to support himself or herself.  Payments are awarded as long as reasonably necessary to rehabilitate the spouse. This type of support can be modified by petition to a court.

Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate but a spouse needs financial assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short of moderate duration. The amount of durational alimony can be modified or terminated based on a substantial change of circumstances. However, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances.

Permanent Alimony is typically paid monthly and is designed to support a spouse who does not have the resources or ability to support himself or herself. It is most often awarded in cases where there has been a long term marriage, but can also be awarded when the other spouse is older, ill, or otherwise incapacitated and unable to be rehabilitated. Payments are usually made until the receiving spouse remarries or either party dies. This award can be modified based upon a substantial change in circumstances of either party or upon proving that the receiving spouse is in a supportive relationship.  

In determining whether to award alimony, the court must first make a finding of whether either spouse has a need for such financial support. Only after need has been shown will the court consider whether the other party has the ability to pay. If the court finds that both the need for and the ability to pay alimony exists, then the court will consider all relevant factors in determining the type and proper amount of spousal support, including: 

  • The length of the marriage
  • The emotional and physical conditions of the spouses
  • The ages of the spouses
  • Marital property and marital debts
  • Financial assets of each spouse
  • Each spouse’s educational level, skills, and earning ability
  • The standard of living enjoyed during the marriage
  • Contributions of each spouse to the marriage (including homemaking, child care, education and career building of the other spouse)
  • Time needed for either spouse to acquire training to secure suitable employment
  • All sources of income available to either spouse
  • Adultery of either spouse

The duration of spousal support will vary depending on the facts of the particular case and on the type of alimony awarded.  Some forms of alimony may not be modified, while many are modifiable based on a substantial change in circumstances. Additionally, an amendment to Florida Statute Section 61.14 provides the court with authority to modify or terminate alimony if the spouse receiving alimony resides with an unrelated person, who is providing support to or receiving support from the receiving spouse. The statute provides a list of criteria that the court must consider in determining whether such a “supportive relationship” exists under Florida law.

Whether or not you expect to pay or receive alimony in your divorce, it is important that you understand your rights with regard to spousal support. Our attorneys will examine the specifics of your case to determine whether you are a candidate for alimony or are faced with prospect of paying it. We will work to either maximize or minimize your payment depending on whether you are the paying or receiving spouse. To discuss the specifics of your case with our experienced family law attorneys, please call Rice Law Firm at (386) 257-1222.

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