Alimony In Florida: A Primer
In the spring of 2016, it appeared that Florida lawmakers were poised to significantly reform spousal support laws in the Sunshine State. However, a last-minute change caused Governor Rick Scott to veto the measure, and after four failures in four years, alimony reformers were unable to muster the strength to challenge the law yet again.
So, Florida judges still have a great deal of discretion in setting both the amount and duration of payments, as long as they rely on the various factors listed in Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes.
Types of Alimony
The nature of spousal support is one of the biggest issues in alimony reform drives. Some observers (mostly alimony obligors) consider these payments as a means to an end. In other words, the obligees should receive support only until they achieve economic self-sufficiency. Those on the other side (mostly alimony obligees) see these payments as a way to permanently equalize the standard of living between the ex-spouses. That’s necessary, they argue, largely because divorced men recoup wealth much faster than divorced women.
As a result, the various types of alimony in Florida are a balance between these two perspectives which are usually completely inconsistent with one another.
- Temporary Alimony: While there is no cap on the amount of payments, the duration is limited to the period that the divorce is pending, which is why this support is also called alimony pendente lite (while the case is pending).
- Bridge-the-Gap: As the name implies, these payments help obligee spouses transition from married to single life, by providing money for things like school re-enrolment for up to two years after the divorce is final.
- Rehabilitative: Essentially, these payments are bridge-the-gap alimony if the obligee’s need will extend longer than two years. The tradeoff is that the obligee must also submit an economic rehabilitation plan, and strictly adhere to that plan.
- Durational: If the previous three alimony formats are insufficient, the court may award long-term periodic payments that are capped at the length of the marriage (g. a ten-year marriage means a maximum ten years of durational alimony).
- Permanent: To award these payments, the court must state the reasons why it is reasonable under the circumstances. Such payments are available only to spouses who cannot obtain economic self-sufficiency, perhaps because they are disabled or they have custody of a disabled child.
Most of these forms of alimony can be modified based on changed financial or relevant life circumstances.
Factors to Consider
The overarching consideration is the balance between the obligor’s ability to pay and the obligee’s economic need. To help the judge make this determination, there are a number of factors listed in the statute, including:
- Each spouse’s financial resources,
- Relative earning capacity of each spouse, based on age, health, education, gender, and other factors,
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Length of the marriage,
- Noneconomic contributions to the relationship, and
- Custody provisions for minor children.
These factors also apply to the duration of payments and type of alimony award, because a severe economic need usually justifies longer spousal support payments.
Count on Experienced Lawyers
Spousal support is an integral part of most divorce settlements. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters throughout the Treasure Coast area.