Calculating the Amount and Duration of Spousal Support Payments in Florida
Many marriages, but certainly not all of them, end in divorce. Many marriage dissolutions, but certainly not all of them, involve spousal support payments. Florida has a rather broad alimony law, but nevertheless, judges only order these payments in limited circumstances. That’s especially true of long-term alimony.
Obligors (people who pay support) and obligees (people who receive financial support) each have legal and financial rights in these situations. Regardless of your position, a Port St. Lucie divorce attorney stands up for you in the courthouse and at the negotiating table.
Determining the obligor’s income is usually the starting point of all alimony inquiries. Frequently, this part of the process is far from straightforward.
Many obligors are completely self-employed. Or, they have side gigs, like Uber driver, in addition to their regular jobs. When income varies from month to month, it’s difficult to establish a monthly obligation. One month of bank statements is usually insufficient. At a minimum, an attorney must review three or four months of bank statements.
Additionally, not all obligors are completely honest. Many try to hide income. Intentional over-withholding is one of the most common ploys. Obligors voluntarily increase tax withholding or estimated tax payments to artificially lower their income. Then, they get this money back in the spring.
“Smoking gun” evidence is hard to obtain, especially in the early phases of a divorce case. Circumstantial evidence, like paychecks which are suddenly and inexplicably lower, is much easier to find and use.
Many states use objective guidelines, based largely on the length of the marriage and income disparity between the parties, to set the amount of spousal support payments. But in Florida, the law is quite subjective. Judges use a number of factors to determine alimony amounts. Some of these factors include:
- Length of the marriage,
- Noneconomic contributions to the relationship (the “homemaker” factor),
- Custody of minor children.
- Obligor’s ability to pay,
- Each spouse’s future earning potential, and
- Obligee’s economic need.
Many of these factors change over time. If that happens, either party can usually file a motion to modify alimony payments.
Judges use these same basic factors to determine the appropriate length of alimony payments. Most spousal support orders contain one of the following types of alimony. The exact length usually varies.
Many spouses need help meeting divorce-related expenses. That’s especially true if the obligor was the filing party and the obligee had little or no notice of the filing. Short term alimony is usually appropriate in these cases. Typically, short term alimony expires when the judge finalizes the divorce.
Judges typically order intermediate alimony if the obligee has a greater financial need that takes more time to address. For example, to become economically self-sufficient, many obligees must finish college degrees. That effort requires time and money.
Many intermediate alimony orders include written rehabilitation plans. If the obligee fails to follow the plan, that failure could be an independent basis for modification.
Long term alimony is generally only available if the obligee is disabled and cannot earn enough money to be self-supporting. In these cases, alimony equalizes the standard of living between the former spouses. That’s the only way to prevent the divorce from being an unfair financial burden on the obligee.
Contact a Tenacious Lawyer
Alimony determinations are rather complex in Florida. For a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Convenient payment plans are available.