Alimony in Florida is essential for a divorced spouse who needs financial assistance to adapt to life after marriage. Besides the emotional anguish, divorce may also result in a significant financial strain for both spouses. Particularly, the lower-earning spouse may have financial difficulty living on one income.

This article discusses qualification to termination of alimony and everything in between.

Basics of Alimony in Florida

Alimony is also referred to as maintenance or spousal support and is the financial support provided by one spouse to the other after divorce. It is meant to help a spouse maintain the living standard adopted during the marriage.

If a judge awards alimony, it is the higher-earning spouse who pays the maintenance. However, some conditions must be met before determining whether or not to award alimony.

Determination of Spousal Support in Florida

Alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis. This means that there are no specific Florida alimony rules that determine if and how much maintenance should be paid.

Courts apply a two-step test to determine whether alimony should be awarded. First, the judge determines whether the requesting spouse needs financial support. The other step is to determine whether the other spouse has the financial ability to pay.

The need for support and the ability to pay must be proven before an alimony award. If alimony is awarded, it should be for the purposes of helping the requesting spouse meet their basic needs. The judge will also consider various factors to determine the amount and duration of alimony.

Determining the Type and Amount of Alimony

Once the court establishes that a spouse has the need for alimony and that the other has the ability to pay, it goes on to determine the proper type and amount of alimony to award.

Some of the relevant factors the court considers include:

  • The duration of the marriage
  • The standard of living established by the spouses during their marriage
  • The financial resources of each spouse, including marital and nonmarital assets and debts distributed to each
  • The age and physical and emotional health of each spouse
  • The earning abilities, education levels, employability, or vocational skills of both spouses
  • When applicable, the time necessary for the requesting spouse to acquire sufficient education or training to enable them to find suitable employment
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the marriage, including the efforts towards childcare homemaking, education, and building the career of the other spouse
  • The responsibilities each spouse will have regarding any minor children of the marriage
  • The sources of income available to both spouses, including assets and other forms of investment
  • Any other factor that the court deems equitable and just in creating an alimony award

In determining alimony in the state of Florida, the rebuttable presumption is that a short-term marriage lasts less than seven years. A moderate-term marriage is that which lasts more than seven years but less than 17 years. A long-term marriage lasts 17 years or more. The length of the marriage is the period of time from the marriage date to the date of filing an action to end the marriage.

Protecting an Alimony Award

After creating an alimony award, a judge will further determine if there is a need to protect an alimony award. If there is, the judge will establish to what extent it is necessary to protect the award.

The obligor may be ordered to purchase and maintain a life insurance policy or bond. Otherwise, the judge may order the obligor to secure the alimony award with any other asset suitable for that purpose.

Types of Alimony in Florida

In Florida, there are different types of alimony, which are meant for different purposes. Below are the main types.

– Temporary Alimony

This is an alimony award made during the pendency of a divorce. It is also referred to as alimony pendente lite.

It is meant to support the lower-earning spouse during the divorce proceedings. The award for temporary alimony is automatically terminated when the judge enters the formal divorce decree. Also, this type of alimony may be replaced by another type following the court’s evaluation.

– Bridge-the-Gap Alimony

This is transitional alimony, which may be awarded to assist a spouse make a transition from being married to being single. This type of alimony is usually awarded where one of the spouses has legitimate identifiable short-term financial needs. These are the foreseeable bills associated with starting life afresh without a spouse.

Typically, an award for this type of alimony may not exceed two years. An award for bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either spouse or remarriage of the supported spouse. Florida alimony laws also provide that the amount and duration of such an award shall not be modified.

– Rehabilitative Alimony

In a bid to be self-sufficient, a spouse may need to redevelop their previous skills or credentials. Otherwise, they may need to acquire education, vocational training, or work experience to develop the necessary skills and credentials to get employed. Whenever a court grants rehabilitative alimony, there has to be a specific and defined plan, which should be included as part of the order awarding alimony.

The plan should state the career that the supported spouse wants to pursue. It should also include the estimated length of completion of the program, any associated costs, the time required as an apprentice, and the estimated time for achieving self-sufficiency.

Either spouse may petition for a modification or termination of the rehabilitative alimony award for any of the following reasons:

  • A substantial change in circumstances for either spouse
  • Noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan
  • Completion of the rehabilitative plan

– Durational Alimony

This type of alimony is often awarded in short or moderate-term marriages. A court will award durational alimony when the other types don’t fit the circumstances of the divorcing spouses. It involves a fixed amount over a predetermined period, which should not exceed the length of the marriage.

If spouses were married for three years, the supported spouse may not receive durational alimony for more than three years. Either spouse can petition for a modification of the alimony award if there is a material and significant change in circumstances of either spouse. However, modification only applies to the alimony amount and not the duration, except under exceptional circumstances.

An award for durational alimony may be terminated upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the spouse receiving alimony.

– Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is usually awarded where a divorcing couple has been in a long-term marriage. It is meant to support a spouse who lacks the financial ability to meet their needs and necessities of life as established during the marriage.

Permanent alimony may also be awarded in the case of a moderate-term marriage if the requesting spouse can provide clear and convincing evidence to prove the need for such alimony. A court may also award permanent alimony following the dissolution of a marriage of short duration if a written finding of exceptional circumstances is presented in court.

Florida courts reserve permanent alimony for cases where no other type of alimony is fair and reasonable under the spouses’ circumstances. A permanent alimony award terminates the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the supported spouse. A substantial change in circumstances of spouses may warrant a modification or termination of the award.

This may also happen if the supported spouse enters into a supportive relationship with a person with whom they are not related by blood or affinity.

Alimony Without Filing for Divorce

Under Florida alimony statute 61.09, one spouse may be required to pay the other alimony without getting divorced. Since Florida doesn’t recognize legal separation, alimony may be necessary if spouses are separated.

Unlike maintenance in divorce cases, alimony under this statute recognizes the continuation of marriage. It also acknowledges the continual right of a spouse to participate in the other’s estate and the probable reconciliation of spouses.

Since spouses have a legal duty to support each other financially, alimony may be necessary even if spouses are separated but not yet divorced. In such cases, the higher-earning spouse is obligated to provide support to match the financial standards established during the marriage.

While there is a residency requirement for Florida couples seeking a divorce, this doesn’t apply when one spouse is seeking alimony in accordance with Florida Statute 61.09. What’s more, a couple must not live apart for alimony to be ordered by the court. Further, there is no requirement that the obligor is at fault for the separation for alimony to be ordered.

Enforcing an Alimony Order in Florida

In Florida divorce cases, a court may order that a higher-earning spouse pay alimony to support their lower-earning soon-to-be ex. However, not all spouses ordered to pay alimony will do so, which often leaves the obligee in dire financial straits.

So, what options are available for an obligee who wishes to recover their past-due alimony payments?

Below, we look at the various ways of enforcing an alimony order in Florida.

– Motion for Contempt

A common option for enforcing an alimony order is filing a Motion for Contempt in court. If the judge establishes that the obligor willfully refused to pay alimony, they can be held in contempt. The obligor may then be ordered to pay fines or, worse still, face a jail term until they pay all the alimony arrearages. If the obligor still fails or refuses to make payments, alimony laws in Florida provide additional enforcement options.

– Wage Garnishment

It is common for a supporting spouse to pay alimony to their ex-spouse by depositing part of their income in the State Depository. Income withholding, otherwise called wage garnishment, may be used to enforce an alimony order if the obligor fails or refuses to pay.

The obligor’s employer is issued with a court order which requires that a portion of every paycheck be withheld and paid to the obligee. Typically, this amount bypasses the obligor and is paid directly to the ex-spouse in financial need. Garnishment is applicable to various forms of income, including wages, salary, bonuses, commissions, tax returns, lottery winnings, retirement income, and even Social Security benefits.

– Additional Enforcement Options

When higher-earning spouses refuse or fail to make alimony payments Florida courts order, the spouses owed support may explore various enforcement options. In addition to the options already highlighted, such spouses may also ask the court to place liens on the obligor’s personal property and real estate. To remove liens on their real estate, obligors will have to pay off all the delinquent alimony payments.

Spouses who are owed alimony may also do a sheriff’s sale of personal property or real estate belonging to their former spouse. However, there are exceptions to the types of property that can be put on sale. Proceeds of any property sold are then used to pay all the alimony arrearages.

Avoiding Alimony in Florida

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see spouses “planning” for divorce by drawing up prenups and postnuptial agreements. Most of these spouses seek legal means through which they can avoid alimony in Florida. In addition to these options, spouses may consider living frugally since the standard of living during marriage is considered when determining alimony.

Another viable way to avoid paying alimony to your former spouse is to end a failing marriage as soon as possible. Since a court considers the length of marriage when determining alimony, this may seem like a reasonable thing to do if divorce is imminent. You may also avoid alimony by proving that your spouse does not have a “real” need for alimony.

Conclusion

Divorce or separation can be both emotionally and financially draining.

So, what main things should you keep in mind to ensure that the process is as seamless as possible?

  • Spouses who wish to get alimony in Florida must prove their need for financial support and their partner’s ability to pay
  • Florida Statute 61.08 provides the relevant factors that determine the type and amount of alimony to be ordered
  •  Florida courts may order various types of alimony depending on a spouse’s financial needs
  •  Alimony terminates upon the death of either spouse or remarriage of the supported spouse
  • An alimony award may be modified with a change of circumstances in the life of either spouse

A settlement agreement that is deemed equitable and fair by a court in Florida can help avoid litigation over divorce-related issues. If spouses can’t agree on spousal maintenance, the court will make a decision on where or not to award alimony.

5/5 - (14 votes)
Divorce & Finance