When Florida couples decide to separate or divorce, one of the most common concerns is the financial stability of both spouses. When one spouse petitions the court for alimony, there are several factors and steps that must be processed before an award is made. Florida law mandates that there are specific factors that must be considered in each case, even if other factors change depending on the circumstances. These static factors include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age of both spouses
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Marital contribution
- The income of each spouse
- The employment opportunity (also known as the earning potential) of each spouse
- The individual and marital assets
- The fairness of the overall situation
Of these factors, the three most important are the length of the marriage, the need for income on the part of one spouse, and the ability of the other spouse to provide that income. The length of the marriage is perhaps the most important factor, as couples who have been married only a short time and are both actively employable are often considered self-sufficient, thus eliminating the need for alimony. Couples who have been married for a long duration, or where one spouse can prove that he or she is unable to obtain income independently, are much more likely to be awarded alimony.
In order for the court to determine the facts surrounding a request for alimony, both spouses must fully disclose their financial position and provide documented evidence to support claims regarding the above-mentioned factors. One must never try to predict the court’s decision because alimony is a complex and often unpredictable aspect of family law.
Alimony in Florida
Florida law recognizes five primary categories of alimony, each with its own specific guidelines and responsibilities. The five categories are:
- Durational Alimony - Durational alimony is a newer concept in alimony law that allows the court to award alimony on a temporary basis established by the court not to exceed the length of the marriage. Durational alimony is often awarded in cases where one spouse intendeds to return to school or seek new employment as a means of gaining financial independence. In some cases, durational alimony is awarded as a temporary means to provide income until a permanent arrangement can be settled.
- Permanent Alimony - Permanent alimony is one of the most traditional forms of alimony, and is awarded based on the individual facts of the couple’s case along with a review of Florida’s legal guidelines and statutes. Once permanent alimony is awarded, it cannot be terminated unless the receiving spouse remarries or passes away. Permanent alimony is often paid on an established schedule, such as weekly or monthly. This form of alimony is most often awarded in cases where the couple was married for many years.
- Rehabilitative Alimony - Rehabilitative alimony is a temporary form of alimony designed to help restore the earning capacity or professional status of one of the spouses that lapsed during the course of the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony is often awarded to individuals who left a professional position in order to care for children or accept other responsibilities of the marriage. The primary purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to help the individual achieve their former professional status and regain their income level.
- Lump Sum Alimony - Lump sum alimony is alimony that is awarded and paid in a lump sum, rather than being spread over many payments. In some cases, the court will allow distribution of assets in a lump sum as lump sum alimony, even though it is not traditional alimony. Lump sum alimony is a good option for individuals who want to move forward quickly without having to maintain contact with their ex-spouse for a long period of time. Lump sum alimony allows the paying spouse the ability to make one, or a few, lump sum payments in order to fulfill the court’s final order.
- Bridge the Gap Alimony - Bridge the gap alimony and rehabilitative alimony operate very similarly, though the two have a different purpose. Unlike rehabilitative alimony that is designed to help reestablish the professional position and income capability of the individual, bridge the gap alimony is designed to help the individual transition from married to single life. Generally, bridge the gap alimony is only awarded for a short time while the individual settles into life and begins to establish him or herself as a single entity. Bridge the gap alimony can be awarded in a lump sum, or according to a short durational payment plan, depending on the individual situation. Bridge the gap alimony also is commonly awarded to individuals in need of support, but who do not qualify for other forms of alimony.
What is the Process for Obtaining Alimony in Florida?
Obtaining alimony is, in fact, a process. The legal premise of alimony is that the termination of a marriage is also the termination of a partnership, which can cause financial hardship for one of the spouses if he or she does not have the same income or earning capacity as the other. In order to obtain alimony, the court must find that one of the spouses is in “need” of financial support, and that the other spouse is able to provide it. If this basic element is not met, then no alimony will be awarded.
If the court does find that one spouse is in need of income and the other is able to provide it, then the process of calculating alimony will begin. Because there are five categories of alimony, and because every case is different, the process for calculating alimony can be lengthy and complex. The best way to determine whether alimony is an option is for the case to be reviewed by an attorney experienced in navigating Florida’s alimony statutes and guidelines.
Set up a free consultation with a Gainesville Alimony Attorney who is experienced in alimony matters today. Call our office to get the help you need.