Some Spousal Support Basics In Florida
The wave of alimony reform that swept over a number of other states in the early and mid-2010s never came ashore in the Sunshine State. Governor Rick Scott vetoed two alimony reform bills during this period, even though reformers charged that Florida’s laws on the subject were “outdated” and “not equitable.”
Types of Spousal Support in Florida
At its core, alimony is designed to equalize the standard of living between the former spouses, give obligee spouses the financial resources they need to start new lives, or some combination of both. So, Florida courts recognize five types of alimony:
- Temporary: In the immediate wake of a divorce filing, obligee spouses often face a number of financial obligations that they cannot meet, such as attorneys’ fees and housing deposits. Judges normally award alimony pendente lite (while the case is pending) in these circumstances, even if the obligee spouse is the one who filed for divorce.
- Bridge the Gap: Temporary alimony automatically ends when the case is finalized, but bridge the gap alimony may last for up to two years. This support gives financially needy spouses an extra income stream in certain situations, such as going back to school to complete a degree or accepting a low-paying internship to improve their position in the job market.
- Rehabilitative: If the obligee spouse needs more than two years to become self-sufficient, makes a written plan to that effect, and sticks with that plan, the obligor spouse must pay support for the entire rehabilitation period.
- Durational: The first form of alimony clearly designed to redistribute income, since obligee spouses need not show a specific economic need, is capped at the length of the marriage.
- Permanent: Reformers particularly dislike this type of spousal support. While it is not technically “permanent,” payments do last as long as the obligee spouse is incapable of self-support (g. s/he has custody of a disabled child).
In each case, Treasure Coast judges must set the minimum duration and amount of payment that will accomplish the spousal support’s objective of either equalizing the standard of living or meeting a specific need.
Factors That Determine Alimony in Florida
The overall factor is the balance between the obligor’s ability to pay support and the obligee’s need for such support. This inquiry consists of a number of factors, including:
- The income and assets available to both spouses (including any nonmarital property awards),
- Relative earning capacity of each spouse,
- Duration of the marriage,
- Custody of minor children,
- Noneconomic and economic contributions to the marriage,
- Tax consequences of any awards, and
- Any agreements between the spouses.
The last factor is often the most important one, because most judges approve inter-spousal agreements that are entirely voluntary and not patently one-sided.
Modifying Alimony in Florida
Either party can usually change the amount or duration of alimony payments based on changed circumstances. Some prominent exceptions include bridge the gap alimony, which cannot be changed, and rehabilitative alimony, which can be modified or even terminated if the obligee does not adhere to the written plan.
Subsequent relationships have special issues. Later remarriage usually terminates an alimony obligation, but what if the obligee enters into a serious and committed relationship yet does not actually get married? In these situations, judges usually scrutinize the relationship, especially its financial aspects, to determine if it is more like marriage or more like casual dating.
Count on Experienced Lawyers
Alimony is a big part 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.