Alimony In Florida: A Primer
The ancient Code of Hammurabi may have contained the world’s first alimony law. In Section 137, the Code stated that once a divorced man had given his former spouse “her dowry, and a part of the usufruct of field, garden, and property,” she would then be truly free to marry “the man of her heart.”
Today, many people view spousals support in much the same way. In their view, alimony is a way to provide financial support to former spouses. Other people, however, interpret this portion of the Code in a different way. They insist that alimony, then as now, should even out the standard of living between the former spouses. Florida law, which dictates that a divorce should not be an unfair financial burden for either party, arguably supports this view.
Given this background of conflicting views, Florida law tries to walk the line between these two extremes, in terms of both the duration and amount of payments.
Duration of Payments in Port St. Lucie
Florida judges have several options to give divorced spouses the financial support they need for as long as they need it. Typically, the party requesting alimony has the burden of proof to establish such a need. If there is sufficient evidence in the record, the judge may order, or the parties may agree to, one or more of the following:
- Temporary Alimony: While the case is pending, a divorced spouse may have some immediate needs, like daycare costs or attorneys’ fees. Alimony pendente lite essentially order the other spouse to pay for these and similar expenses. This form of alimony automatically stops when the case is finalized.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: Sometimes, these immediate needs last just a little bit longer. So, additional support is available for up to two years after the case becomes final. For example, many spouses must accept lower-paying jobs when they first re-enter the workforce, and they need an additional income stream during this time.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Sometimes, there is some groundwork to do before a spouse can re-enter the workforce. That might include going back to school. Therefore, if one spouse submits a written rehabilitation plan and sticks with it, the other spouse must fund that plan.
- Durational Alimony: One of the most common, and most subjective, types of alimony provides longer-term support and redistribution of income. Durational alimony is capped at the length of the marriage. So, if the couple was married twelve years, these payments can last a maximum 144 months.
- Permanent Alimony: If all other forms are insufficient, a Port St. Lucie judge may order permanent alimony. Typically, the recipient spouse must have a physical, mental, or other disability which prevents him/her from becoming entirely self-sufficient.
Typically, all forms of alimony, except temporary alimony, can be modified based on changed financial circumstances. It’s also possible to adjust rehabilitative alimony due to a change in the plan or failure to follow said plan.
Amount of Payments in Port St. Lucie
The following factors are designed to measure both the obligee spouse’s economic need and the obligor spouse’s ability to pay support:
- Standard of living during the marriage (this factor basically serves as a benchmark),
- Economic and noneconomic contributions to the marriage,
- Each spouse’s current and likely future economic condition,
- Relative health of each spouse,
- Custody of minor children,
- Tax consequences (this factor will change considerably when alimony payments lose their tax deduction in January 2019), and
- Any agreements between the spouses.
That last factor looms large. Most Florida judges honor most agreements between the spouses, even if they are rather one-sided, as long as they were truly voluntary.
Connect with Experienced Lawyers
Alimony is a big part of most, but not all, Florida divorce proceedings. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle cases throughout the Treasure Coast.