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Spousal Support In The Sunshine State

Twice in the last three years, alimony reformers nearly succeeded in their efforts to re-design the system, only to be turned away at the eleventh hour. In 2013, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a reform bill because it would have been retroactive; earlier this year, he vetoed a similar measure, citing a section that created a presumption in favor of shared custody arrangements.

If a recent op-ed in the Palm Beach Post is any indication, reformers may have a hard time getting a bill to the governor’s desk in the next session. Two State Representatives wrote that the previous measures relied on “personal evidence. . .reactions to exceptional circumstances. . .empty assurances and wishful thinking.”

The debate is really about alimony’s purpose after a divorce. Should spousal support be a means to permanently equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses, at least in some situations, or should it always be a means to help the obligee spouse become financially self-sufficient, if at all possible?

Types of Alimony in Florida

Despite what reformers may believe or imply, the vast majority of Florida alimony awards are designed to provide interim financial assistance, to one extent or another.

  • Temporary: Many spouses require financial assistance while the divorce is pending, to pay attorneys’ fees and cover other unexpected expenses, like rent deposits. Alimony pendente lite (during the case) automatically terminates when the decree is entered.
  • Bridge the Gap: This assistance can begin after the divorce is final and continue for a maximum two years and is meant to be an additional income stream while the obligee spouse attends school or waits for a house to sell.
  • Rehabilitative: An obligee spouse must develop a plan of action to receive rehabilitative alimony, for expenses like school tuition.
  • Durational: This category is the first income-redistribution type of alimony. These payments are capped at the duration of the marriage.
  • Permanent: If the obligee spouse will never be self-sufficient, for whatever reason, the judge can award permanent alimony.

Most types of alimony can be modified or terminated based on a substantial change in circumstances; in most cases, either party may request modification or termination.

Factors Used in Determining Alimony

According to the spousal support law, this inquiry is a two-step process. First, the judge must determine if the obligee spouse has a financial need and the obligor spouse has the ability to pay. To determine the amount and duration, the judge may consider a number of factors, including:

  • Relative economic status of the parties in terms of resources and income,
  • Expense and time required for the obligee spouse to attain economic self-sufficiency,
  • Length of the relationship (the court may consider adultery and other fault in the breakup of the marriage),
  • Standard of living established during the marriage,
  • Noneconomic contributions, and
  • Any custody provisions for minor children.

The judge may also consider “Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.”

Reach Out to Experienced Attorneys

For prompt assistance with a car crash or other negligence claim, contact an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie. At Eighmie Law Firm, P.A., we offer after hours appointments.

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