Many people have a vague understanding of the legal matters associated with marriage, divorce, and alimony. It’s understandable, because the rules vary greatly between different jurisdictions, with each state approaching the agreement between separating couples in a unique way.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at how the state of Florida handles legal matters when it comes to alimony. Here’s everything you need to know and your complete guide to Florida Alimony Law.
Florida Alimony Law
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a legal arrangement between separating couples over an agreed period. Most people think of alimony as splitting up all financial resources and the couple’s net income. In reality, the party requesting alimony would usually get the necessary support to live a lifestyle close to what they are accustomed to. In other words, it is a kind of financial support to maintain the standard of living of an ex-spouse during their marriage.
When discussing an alimony award during a divorce petition, the law looks at the financial resources, disparity, and other relevant factors between the parties involved. The Florida family law courts also consider the spouse’s ability to pay alimony and the other party’s need to satisfy their standard of living.
Like other jurisdictions, Florida has different types of alimony, depending on the form, amount, and duration. However, all Florida divorce proceedings and alimony discussions vary and will be determined case-by-case. Many would agree that alimony in Florida is one of the most unpredictable areas of family law when you compare it to the same procedures in other states.
Most states follow alimony guidelines when dealing with divorce petitions, but the process differs dramatically in Florida. Whether you want to avoid paying alimony or have alimony awarded to you, it is always best to contact firms and associations well aware of the alimony guidelines that will be able to reliably help you with your case.
Florida’s divorce and family law courts consider many factors when deciding if alimony is appropriate. If deemed reasonable, the court will have to factor in the durational alimony amount to bridge the gap.
Just a quick side note, the person paying alimony will never have less net income than the party receiving alimony. Florida also supports permanent alimony as part of a divorce settlement. This means it could significantly impact both parties’ financial status in the long run.
Types and Purpose of Alimony in Florida
Depending on the presiding judge and the couple’s circumstances, Florida divorce courts may award one or a combination of these alimony payments. These can be in a lump-sum payment or periodically over a set amount of time.
Temporary alimony is sometimes seen in Florida divorce proceedings A spouse may ask the court to award them temporary alimony. Once granted, the temporary alimony automatically ends at the time when both parties receive the final divorce orders. In most cases, this would be the time when they would seek a new order from the court about another type of alimony within the agreement.
The court may award rehabilitative alimony if the receiving party wants to obtain sufficient education or training that would result in them getting a means to get back on their feet and fulfill their own needs. This means the paying party must carry significant responsibility for providing their ex-spouse with the financial means to carry out this process.
The party requesting rehabilitative alimony must provide a detailed draft of their plan to achieve their goals. They also need to explain how much alimony is required throughout the education or training. This type of alimony will end once the plan is completed or when the other party can’t comply with their drafted plan.
This type of alimony is usually aimed at a smooth transition for both individuals after a divorce. It considers everything necessary to restart a life without a spouse, such as handling bills and possible expenses, to a point where the receiving party can get back on their feet. A court may order bridge-the-gap alimony once both parties reach an agreement on their divorce. This order can’t be modified, and it can last for no more than two years.
Durational alimony heavily depends on the number of years the involved parties were together. The term of the spousal support cannot exceed the length of the marriage. It provides a more flexible option if the bridge-the-gap alimony isn’t enough for support.
Permanent alimony, as the name implies, is a permanent form of alimony that will usually only cease if certain conditions set by the judge are met. The receiving party will continuously get their part of alimony until they get into a supportive relationship, enter another marriage, or when either spouse dies. The court may also suspend the maintenance if they deem it necessary.
Unlike most types of alimony in Florida, in these cases, the court needs to compile a pretty extensive list of documents and write down why permanent alimony is necessary, fair, and reasonable.
Divorce, Adultery and Alimony Requests in Florida
Florida Statute 61.09 states that a paying spouse may be liable to pay alimony even if the couple is not divorced. The state doesn’t recognize legal separation, unlike many states. However, alimony can still be pursued even if a couple is not legally divorced. The alimony under this statute supports the continuation of the marriage and provides a possibility of reconciliation in the future (see Wood v. Wood as reference).
A married couple still has a legal duty to help each other financially. That means a court may still order spousal support even if the couple is separated. The amount of alimony should be appropriate to the standard of living that the receiving party enjoyed during the couple’s marriage (see Astor v. Astor as reference).
For filing a divorce in Florida, the state law requires at least one of the spouses to be a state resident for six months before the divorce petition. However, when talking about durational alimony requirements, residency is not necessary (see Wachsmuth v. Wachsmuth as reference).
The state of Florida is known as a no-fault divorce state. This means under the state’s divorce law, an individual doesn’t need to provide or prove any reason, such as adultery, to facilitate a divorce. So, the act of cheating, for instance, will play a minor role in a permanent alimony request.
However, things will be different if enough evidence supports an argument that marital assets were used for fulfilling adulterous acts while in a marital agreement. In most cases, the court would view this as a waste of marital assets and would be more likely to favor the innocent spouse.
Awarding Alimony under Florida Law
Some factors affect the court’s judgment when awarding alimony in Florida. The court will consider alimony if they deem it necessary. The ability to pay alimony is also a crucial element when deciding its validity.
If the court can’t get enough relevant evidence to support a form of alimony payment, the court may deny the requesting party from receiving alimony from their ex-spouse.
Factors Affecting Alimony Awards
Once the court reviews everything and comes up with an order declaring that alimony is appropriate, talks about the type and the possible amount of alimony will follow. The Florida statutes provide a list of factors that serve as a guide when determining an alimony amount that is considered fair and appropriate.
- Earning Capacity – The court will consider the earning capacity of both parties when coming up with a conclusion regarding alimony. They’ll look at each spouse’s earning potential, educational history, and skills. Once these things are factored in, the court will be able to clearly understand how long the alimony needs to go on.
- Financial Resources – The presiding court will look at the income sources of the receiving party, including their wages, investments, assets, commissions, and other forms of income.
- Child Support – Each spouse is obligated to provide support if children are involved. The court considers the child support obligation and uses it as an evaluating factor when calculating alimony payments.
- Supportive Relationship – Contrary to popular belief, a supportive relationship is not necessarily a romantic relationship. They can be with friends, family, or individuals who might share necessary living expenses, such as utility bills, rent, and food with the requesting party.
- Length of Marriage – Aside from the financial capacity, the length of the marriage is one of the essential factors when determining alimony in Florida. Alimony payments will very rarely exceed the length of the marriage.
- Adultery – While the act of adultery may not be the main driving force for determining an alimony award, it may still affect certain aspects. This is especially true if the innocent party provides the necessary evidence. Things that would prove that their partners gave extravagant gifts to a third party that affected the living condition of their spouse.
Alimony Termination and Modification
Change of Circumstance
The Florida family court and divorce law state that alimony can be modified if the court receives critical documents that point out a substantial change of circumstance not foreseen when drafting the alimony award. In some cases, the court may even order to terminate the alimony.
The change of circumstance usually involves anything considered permanent and involuntary, including unexpected events like illness and disability.
Change of Income
The court may modify, change, or even terminate alimony obligation due to an event that leads to an involuntary loss of income. The court will look at both parties’ financial status while executing the order and compare it with the time when the paying party raises the request. However, the court usually wouldn’t allow for cases where there is evidence of debt manipulation or voluntary income reduction as a valid basis for alimony modification.
The paying party may also use a “change of income” as grounds to reconsider the alimony amount the receiving spouse gets. If their camp can justify their reasoning and provide enough evidence that the receiving spouse has a supportive relationship in addition to the alimony reward, then they have a good chance of having their petition granted.
The essence of alimony is to help separate couples get back on their feet. The court also considers the paying party’s ability to fulfill their alimony obligations and compares that to the other spouse’s need for alimony. This changes when one of the ex-spouses enters a new marital contract.
Remarriage substantially changes the financial landscape of both parties. Therefore, a modification to the alimony is usually necessary and is grounds for a court to make a new judgment.
A supportive relationship that helps the receiving spouse with their financial obligations is a ground for alimony modification. However, there are certain factors people need to consider. For example, the extent of financial support provided by the ex-spouse’s new partner or educational support for minor children involved at the time when reaching a final order for alimony. Another factor is the people living together with the spouse who receives alimony.
Child Support and Alimony
Most paying parties look at child support and alimony as the same thing. However, the court looks at these things separately.
Alimony is the obligation a paying spouse needs to fulfill to their ex-spouse to help them get back on their feet. On the other hand, child support is the amount involved in raising a child. This covers food expenses, clothes, and other essential things a child needs to grow. If children are involved, courts can order child support and alimony simultaneously.
Collecting Alimony under Florida Law
Not everyone is fond of giving money to their ex-spouse to sustain their way of living. This can sometimes make it hard for the receiving spouse to collect the agreed alimony amount. Fortunately, Florida alimony law offers safe and reliable methods to get what the receiving party deserves.
Garnishment is one of the known methods for collecting alimony in Florida. It is a process where a specific amount will go directly to the ex-spouse’s account. A prime example of this is wage garnishment. The agreed alimony amount is taken off directly from the paying spouse’s salary.
Additionally, there are cases where other forms of income, such as pensions and spendthrift trusts, could be garnished as a form of alimony payments (see Gilbert v. Gilbert and City of Miami v. Spurrier as reference).
Frequently Asked Questions about Alimony
Is there a standard equation when calculating alimony?
There’s no standard formula to determine how much potential alimony an ex-spouse would get when dealing with this in Florida.
Is all divorce subjected to alimony?
Not all divorce proceedings are liable for alimony in Florida. Most Florida courts order alimony for marriages that have lasted ten years or more. Short-term marriages that involve alimony are quite rare.
Is Alimony tax deductible?
Under current tax laws, alimony is not taxable to the recipient or deductible by the paying spouse. You may be grandfathered into the tax treatment of the prior laws if your divorce was finalized in 2018 or earlier.
I’ve been separated from my husband for a couple of years, but we haven’t processed our divorce yet. Am I qualified for alimony?
The court will unlikely agree with your alimony request since you’ve been able to satisfy your living needs in the past couple of years. You’ll need to come up with a solid reason to prove alimony is necessary for your lifestyle.