Calculating the Amount and Duration of Alimony Payments in Florida
In recent years, many other jurisdictions have significantly revamped their alimony laws. In places like Illinois and nearby South Carolina, alimony calculations are more like child support calculations. A mathematical formula usually controls the results.
But Florida law is much more subjective in this area. When calculating the amount and duration of payments, judges may consider a wide variety of factors. And, they have a great deal of discretion when applying them.
So, effective representation from a Port St. Lucie divorce lawyer is critical for both parties. Otherwise, the final order may substantially erode your legal and/or financial rights.
Amount of Payments in St. Lucie County
In this area, the court must consider both the obligee’s financial need and the obligor’s ability to pay.
The 2017 tax law changes significantly changed this dynamic. For many years, obligors could deduct spousal support payments on their income tax returns, and obligees had to report this money as income. Now, obligors cannot deduct the payments, and obligees do not have to report the receipts. The jury is still out (pardon the pun) as to whether this change helps or hurts divorced women.
To better establish financial need and ability, the law sets out a number of factors to consider, including:
- All the obligor’s financial resources, including any nonmarital property awards,
- Relative earning capacity of the parties, based on things like their work experience, education, health, and age,
- All the obligee’s financial resources, including any awards of nonmarital property,
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage (e. one spouse gave up career advancement to be a homemaker),
- Length of the marriage, and
- Any agreements between the parties.
That last point is an important one. Many couples execute premarital agreements which include alimony limits. As long as the pact was not blatantly one-sided and both spouses had independent attorneys, most judges uphold the limits in these agreements, even if they are somewhat uneven.
Types of Spousal Support in Florida
As for the duration of alimony payments, in most cases, only the obligee’s financial need is relevant. There are several types of alimony in Florida, including:
- Temporary: In the immediate wake of a divorce filing, especially if the other spouse filed first, some spouses need financial assistance for things like attorneys’ fees and daycare costs. The obligor must help with these expenses if possible, and the payment automatically terminates when the divorce is final.
- Bridge-the-Gap: Sometimes, these interim needs continue after the divorce ends. For example, a spouse may need to take a low-paying job to re-enter the workforce. So, the judge may order the obligor to pay additional alimony for up to two years.
- Rehabilitative: If the need extends beyond two years, financial assistance is available, if the obligor is able to provide it. Additionally, the obligee must submit a written plan to the court which outlines the path to economic self-sufficiency. Failure to stay on this path could result in alimony termination.
- Durational: If a judge awards spousal support, it is usually durational alimony. These payments, which are capped at the length of the marriage, fulfill an economic need and also redistribute income between the spouses.
- Permanent: If the obligee is disabled or will otherwise never attain economic self-sufficiency, a judge may order lifelong payments. Permanent alimony awards are extremely rare.
If financial or other circumstances change later, for either the obligor or obligee, either party may file a motion to modify.
Contact an Assertive Lawyer
Florida’s subjective spousal support laws rest on a number of factors. 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.