Alimony is money paid to a former spouse for his or her support. The law is applied equally to men and women. If a party has a need for a contribution to their support from their husband or wife who can afford to pay it, spousal support is going to be a factor in the case. The basic test is simple: What are the needs of the spouse seeking support and what is the ability of the other party to pay it.
If no alimony is awarded in the Final Judgment then any right to alimony is forever extinguished. As with many issues in a divorce case it is important to fully present your case the first time.
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Types of Alimony
There are different types of alimony available under Florida Law. Alimony may be temporary, bridge the gap, rehabilitative, durational, permanent periodic, lump sum or any combination of these forms of alimony. The right to receive alimony may be expressly waived in a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement except the right to receive temporary alimony cannot be waived.
Temporary alimony is usually ordered early in a divorce to maintain the status quo while the case is pending before the Court. This type ceases at the conclusion of the court case and entry of the Final Judgment or upon the death of either spouse during the payment period.
Bridge the gap alimony is intended to provide financial assistance to a spouse who needs it for a short period of time, not to exceed two years. This alimony is paid to help them adjust to their new circumstances and resettling their lives. Death of either spouse during the payment period will terminate bridge-the-gap alimony. An award of bridge the gap alimony is not otherwise modifiable in amount or duration.
Rehabilitative alimony is to allow the receiving spouse time to create the ability to become self-supporting, either through the redevelopment of a previous skill or by providing the training necessary to develop new skills. To award rehabilitative alimony the Court must be presented with evidence of a specific rehabilitative plan. Rehabilitative alimony is paid for a limited length of time which could be several months or a period of years. The payments for rehabilitative alimony can be adjusted in amount or duration and will end as directed by the Final Judgment or by modifying orders by the Court. Death of either spouse during the payment period will terminate this alimony.
Durational alimony is a relatively new, legislatively created form of alimony. This is designed to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage. Durational alimony is usually available for marriages that do not reach the duration of a long-term marriage but where there are significant factors for the Court to consider. This alimony can be modified as circumstances change and ceases according to the Final Judgment or modifying orders. Death of either spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse can also be grounds for termination. If the receiving spouse enters into a supportive relationship of some type the paying spouse may have grounds to request a reduction or cessation of durational alimony.
Permanent alimony is support which is paid to a former spouse until he/she remarries, dies or the paying spouse passes away. Permanent alimony may be terminated or modified if circumstances change substantially. Normally alimony is paid on a periodic basis, however, when appropriate, a court may order that it be payable in a single lump sum or it may provide the alimony is to be a combination of periodic payments and a lump sum. Depending upon one party’s need and the other’s ability to meet that need, the court may also order lump sum alimony payable in installments over time. Death of either spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse can also be grounds for termination. If the receiving spouse enters into a supportive relationship of some type the paying spouse may have grounds to request a reduction or cessation of alimony.
The type of alimony to be paid, the length and period it is intended to cover and how it should be paid can affect how property should be divided. It may also give rise to tax consequences for both the spouses. These matters have to be considered whether you are reaching a settlement or you are seeking to have the court decide your case for you.
The form of alimony awarded in the original final judgment of dissolution of marriage affects whether it can be modified. If the alimony awarded is permanent periodic alimony it is modifiable upon proof of a substantial change in circumstances to either party. If a former spouse who has been receiving alimony begins earning a significant income after entry of the original judgment, the other party may seek a reduction because the receiving spouse is now capable of self-support. On the other hand, a former spouse who suffers an involuntary, permanent and substantial decrease of income may apply for a reduction in the amount they pay. Reduction doesn’t mean termination unless the receiving former spouse needs no more assistance whatever from the former husband.
Whether seeking an increase or decrease of alimony, the amount of proof is substantial competent evidence that the paying party no longer has the income with which to pay or the receiving party has less or no need for alimony.
While rehabilitative alimony is intended to be paid long enough to allow the receiving spouse to acquire the education or vocational skills necessary to enter the job market, it too is modifiable. For example a paying former spouse may claim the receiving former spouse has completed job training, is now employed and earning sufficient money to justify termination of alimony. The receiving party may seek to extend the rehabilitative period because, due to no fault, the former spouse is unable to complete training within the time period set by the court or agreement of the parties. If there is a substantial change of circumstance rehabilitative alimony can be terminated or modified.
Durational alimony may also be modified upon a substantial change in circumstances, except that the length of an award may only be modified upon exceptional circumstances, and in no instance may it exceed the length of the marriage.
The wording of a marital settlement agreement may give rise to a very heated question of whether or not the parties intended the alimony to be modifiable. That this issue may arise long after the divorce will likely surprise both parties. It is one of the many reasons that when seeking a divorce, people are best advised to retain experienced counsel who know the necessity of precise legal language in drafting marital agreements and who understand the nature of the various kinds of alimony.
Modifying your alimony requires an experienced attorney. Our lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience. Call us to schedule your free initial consultation (321) 631-0506.
How Much Alimony?
How much can a spouse expect to receive? The criteria to be considered include: the length of the marriage; the prior standard of living; each party’s age and mental and physical condition; each party’s financial resources; a party’s education and services rendered in homemaking and child rearing. If a party has rarely worked out of the home, they will often need more support than a spouse who worked for most of the marriage.
Let’s assume that the husband is the recipient. How much can he expect to get? The criteria to be reviewed include: The length of the marriage, the parties’ income and assets, the parties’ education and job skills. The parties’ earning records, assets, health, and age are also important factors. In determining alimony the Court can also consider any other relevant fact.
Can this needs and ability to pay test be stated in dollars and cents? YES.
One of the most important aspects of your divorce will be the preparation of truthful, accurate financial affidavits by each party. The affidavit is a written statement of each party’s gross income, assets, tax obligations, net income and monthly living expenses. The court will scrutinize these affidavits as well as the testimony of the parties. Because child support is based upon the Florida’s Uniform Child Support Guidelines, the affidavits are also important in terms of how much child support will be paid. With the numbers for income and legitimate expenses pinned down, your lawyer should be able to give you a fairly accurate range of how much child support and/or alimony the court may award.
The hard work is getting the numbers down and having testimony and other evidence so that the judge will rule in your favor.
Let our attorneys’ 100 years combined experience work for you. Call us to schedule your free initial consultation (321) 631-0506.