Your Guide to Alimony in Florida Divorce Law
Undergoing a divorce can become one of the most stressful periods of a person’s life. The emotional turmoil of ending a marriage is compounded by the legal complexities inherent in property division, child custody, child support, and alimony. An experienced divorce lawyer can help ease some of the stress by addressing these legal complexities on your behalf.
Adam R. Cowhey, Esquire, at Tallahassee-based Cowhey + Ward Attorneys at Law, has extensive experience guiding his clients through the legalities of divorce. As such, he likes to share his legal expertise on this blog and today will provide guidance on alimony in Florida divorce law. Whether through negotiation or in the courtroom, Adam can also ensure that your legal rights are protected while he strives to resolve the legalities of your divorce in the most favorable manner possible.
What Exactly is Alimony?
Also referred to as “spousal support” and “maintenance,” alimony is a legal obligation to provide financial support to an ex-spouse during legal marital separation or divorce. The concept of alimony has been around since at least ancient Babylonian times and was also codified into law during the late Roman Empire. Modern forms of alimony evolved out of English ecclesiastical courts that awarded alimony during the Middle Ages.
In U.S. states today, alimony is designed to help ensure that a divorce does not economically disadvantage one of the spouses. With alimony, the spouse with more significant financial resources and/or income is required to provide support to the spouse with lesser means of support. Depending upon the circumstances, alimony can be a temporary bridge designed to support a spouse until they can better support themselves or longer-term support to maintain a spouse’s standard of living.
Alimony in Florida
While alimony has fostered a reputation for being punitive, Florida laws encourage fairness in family law court decisions. Alimony judgments cannot give a spousal recipient more net income than the person paying. The court’s first consideration in determining whether alimony should be awarded is the difference between a spouse’s need for support and the other spouse’s ability to pay. If either of these parameters is absent, the court can reject alimony. Factors courts consider when determining the maintenance to be awarded include but are not limited to:
- Duration of marriage.
- Couple’s standard of living during the marriage.
- Financial resources of each spouse, including assets and income sources.
- Debt held by each spouse.
- Contributions each couple made to the marriage and household.
- Earning capability, education level, vocational skills, and employment prospects.
- Age and physical and emotional health of each spouse.
- Spousal responsibilities for any minor children.
- Tax implications of any alimony award on both spouses.
A marriage’s duration is key in determining the type(s) of alimony that a Florida family law court can decree. Courts break down duration as short-term (seven years or less), moderate-term (7-16 years), and long-term (more than 17 years).
Types of Alimony Under Florida Law
Florida law provides five types of alimony to address marital and post-marital situations. Florida family court judges can combine the types if needed and may structure them as periodic payments or in one lump sum. Alimony types include:
- Temporary alimony—typically awarded early on during divorce proceedings to help support a spouse until a final judgment is rendered, this alimony ends when the divorce is finalized.
- Bridge the gap alimony—A transitional alimony most often ordered with short-term marriages, it is designed to provide support (bill payment) to a spouse while they begin their new single life.
- Rehabilitative alimony—Similar to “bridge the gap,” this alimony typically provides greater support to help the in-need spouse pursue education or vocational training to gain employment that will help them become financially independent. This type of alimony is tightly structured, and either spouse can petition the court for modifications if there are situational changes.
- Durational alimony—used for short- and moderate-term marriages, this alimony is used when the other types do not fit the circumstances of the divorcing spouses. The alimony is awarded based on a set time limit that cannot exceed the duration of the marriage. Either spouse can petition the court for payment modifications if significant changes to their respective situations arise.
- Permanent alimony—Typically reserved for long- and moderate-term marriages, this alimony is designed to cover situations in which a spouse will not likely ever have the means to maintain the same standard of living experienced while married. This alimony usually raises the most contention when argued before the family court. Either spouse can petition the court for modifications if substantial changes in circumstances arise.
Death of either ex-spouse or remarriage of the benefit-receiving spouse typically nullifies the alimony, though there are exceptions with rehabilitative alimony.
Enforcing Alimony Payments
While an ex-spouse might sometimes have a valid reason—job loss, medical issues, oversight, personal issues—for failing to maintain court-ordered alimony payments, some ex-spouses stop payments for no valid reason. If your ex-spouse stops or otherwise reduces payments, you may need to return to court to enforce the court-ordered alimony payments. Whatever the cause, an experienced divorce lawyer can help you get the alimony payments back on track.
Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer can take a negotiated or hard-ball approach. The former is designed to negotiate a new agreement that accounts for any financial difficulties your ex-spouse may have, while the latter seeks to force alimony payments via enforcement orders, liens, income withholding, and other sanctions.
Turn to Cowhey + Ward for Your Alimony Disputes
Whether seeking alimony, negotiating a fair alimony agreement, or trying to mitigate the impacts of a potential alimony judgment, consult with Tallahassee’s Cowhey + Ward. Alimony is a complex component of divorce proceedings with outcomes that can be significantly influenced by subjective reasoning by family law courts, despite the state’s statutory efforts for objective reasoning. Cowhey + Ward works tirelessly to negotiate fair alimony agreements on behalf of its clients but will not hesitate to take an aggressive approach in the courtroom. To learn more about Cowhey + Ward’s experience in successfully resolving all elements of divorce for their clients, contact our Tallahassee-based office today at (850) 222-1000.