How The Judge Determines Alimony In Florida
Spousal support is not automatic in a Port St. Lucie divorce, but most judges grant at least some alimony in the vast majority of Treasure Coast marriage dissolution cases. Before making such a move, the judge essentially considers the obligor’s ability to pay and the obligee’s economic need. As these items vary significantly among different couples and are subject to change, alimony issues often dominate divorce litigation, in both the initial and modification phases.
What are some specific issues in this determination?
Types of Florida Alimony
Opinions vary greatly as to whether spousal support should be a way to redistribute income and equalize the long-term standard of living between the ex-spouses, or whether such money should be a means to an end and simply help an economically disadvantaged spouse become economically self-sufficient. Florida lawmakers wrestle with this question as well, which is why the state’s alimony law tries to strike a balance between these competing schools of thought.
- Temporary: While the case is pending, a spouse must often meet unexpected expenses, such as legal fees, real estate deposits, and/or child care expenses. If one spouse has a need in this area, the judge often awards alimony pendente lite (while the case is pending). Such payments automatically terminate when the Florida divorce becomes final.
- Bridge-the-Gap: The next form of alimony, which can last for up to two years after the case is final, falls squarely within the self-sufficiency category. This short-term spousal support gives obligees an additional income stream while they do things like complete their education or accept an internship to update their job skills.
- Rehabilitative: Sometimes, these things require more than two years. If that’s the case, and if the obligee files a rehabilitation plan and sticks to it, the judge may award rehabilitative alimony for as long as necessary.
- Durational: If the spouse has a lingering need, such as custody of a young disabled child, which none of the previous three types of alimony can address, the judge may award durational alimony. Florida law caps the duration of payments at the length of the marriage (g. a ten-year marriage means a maximum decade of durational alimony).
- Permanent: If the financial need goes beyond durational alimony, perhaps because the obligee is disabled, the judge may award an amount reasonably needed to satisfy such a need.
Most all these forms of spousal support may be modified later based on changed circumstances. Some issues, such as the obligee’s future cohabitation with another partner, are particularly thorny. In these cases, the judge usually delves into the nature of the relationship and the extent of the economic ties between the two individuals.
Alimony Factors in Florida
To determine the type of alimony, and to settle the preliminary question of whether alimony is appropriate at all, the judge examines a number of factors, including:
- Available financial resources of each spouse,
- Standard of living during the marriage,
- Relative age, health, and employability of each spouse,
- Noneconomic contributions to the marriage, and
- Any agreements between the spouses.
The judge uses these same factors to determine the amount and duration of payments.
Count On Seasoned Lawyers
Equitable spousal support is an element of most Florida divorces. 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.