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Alimony is Financial Support

Alimony is paid by one spouse to the other, and it comes in different shapes and sizes, depending on the circumstances. A court may order alimony only between spouses; if you are unmarried, the court does not have jurisdiction to award it. Additionally, for a court to order alimony, the judge must find that the receiving spouse has a need for it, and that the paying spouse has the ability to pay it. Need without ability, or vice versa, will preclude a judge from awarding alimony.

Unlike child support, there are presently no specific guidelines for a court to use when determining the amount. If alimony is appropriate and awardable, there are several factors that will impact the amount that is awarded, such as the duration of the marriage; the age and physical/emotional condition of each party; the financial resources of each party; the earning capacity, educational levels, and employability of each party, and the contribution of each party to the marriage (including homemaking and childcare), among others.

Aside from the amount, a court must also determine the type of alimony that is to be awarded. Under Florida law, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is longer than 7 years but less than 17 years, and a long-term marriage is more than 17 years.

The length of the marriage also impacts the amount that is awarded:

  • Temporary Alimony: Paid only while a divorce is pending.
  • Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: Paid for a relatively short period of time so that the receiving spouse may transition into single life. It is awarded for a maximum of two years, and usually in short-term marriages.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Paid to the receiving spouse until he or she becomes self-sufficient by acquiring training, education, and/or experience. The spouse requesting this type of alimony must present a “rehabilitative plan” to the court that describes how the alimony will be used to develop these skills.
  • Durational Alimony: Paid to the receiving spouse in short or moderate-term marriages for a specific length of time, which varies from case to case, but may not exceed the length of the marriage. The amount awarded may be modified, but the length may not be modified unless there are exceptional circumstances present.
  • Permanent Periodic Alimony: Paid to the receiving spouse for the entirety of his or her life. This type of alimony is usually awardable in long-term marriages.
  • Lump-Sum Alimony: This is when the entire amount of alimony owed to a spouse is paid at one time, usually with a property interest or an unequal distribution of a marital asset, but it may be awarded in cash as well. Generally, courts will award this type of alimony under special circumstances and when the alimony amount would be unmodifiable.

Proving your spouse’s need, or your spouse’s ability to pay, may become difficult, especially in cases where either of you are self-employed and/or have fluctuating income. There are also special circumstances that may limit and/or terminate a spouse’s alimony obligation. Divorcing is hard enough; worrying about your financial future should not be an additional burden. At Strategic Family Attorney, P.A., we want to take on that burden for you. Contact us for a consultation.

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