One of the most contentious parts of a divorce is alimony. There are many thoughts that generally boil down to the following questions: (1) Do I have to pay alimony? If so, how much and for how long?; and (2) Will I receive any alimony? If so, how much and for how long? Florida Courts start with two basic questions: does either spouse have the ability to pay alimony, and does either spouse have an actual need for alimony (Florida Statutes 61.08(2)). If established that one party has an actual need and the other party has the ability to pay the alimony, then the courts will proceed with determining the type and amount of alimony that is appropriate for your case.
Types of Alimony
Under Florida law, there are four types of alimony: bridge-the-gap (BTG), rehabilitative, durational, and permanent.
Bridge-the-Gap: BTG alimony is awarded to help one spouse transition from married life to now being single. This type of alimony usually helps the spouse with short-term needs, which are specific to each case. BTG alimony cannot exceed 2 years, and once awarded, is not subject to modification, meaning that a spouse can only stop paying if either spouse dies or the spouse receiving the alimony remarries. – Florida Statutes 61.08(5)
Rehabilitative: Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to help one spouse establish self-sufficiency by helping them, for example, get their degree or complete a training program that will allow them to develop skills necessary to achieve gainful employment. A rehabilitative plan must be in writing, stating how and when the spouse expects to reach certain milestones, and when the alimony will end. – Florida Statutes 61.08(6)
Durational: Durational alimony is awarded for a set period of time to provide economic assistance to a spouse, if there is no need for permanent alimony (see below). The reasons for economic assistance will vary from case to case, and cannot be modified unless there is a substantial change in circumstances, the spouse receiving alimony remarries, or either spouse dies. – Florida Statutes 61.08(7)
Permanent: Permanent alimony may be awarded to either spouse to help maintain their needs and necessities of the life that was established during the marriage if they lack the ability to do so on their own. This type of alimony is usually reserved for long-term marriages (defined below), and is called permanent because the receiving spouse will be entitled to the payments for the rest of their life, unless there is a substantial change in circumstances, either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries. – Florida Statutes 61.08(8)
All four types of alimony can be paid using either periodic payments or lump sum payments (which you may see called “lump sum alimony”). Periodic could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Lump sum alimony is usually paid in one large “lump sum”. So, instead of payments every month, the court may order that all alimony awarded in your divorce be paid at one time. Payments can be made both periodically and in a lump sum, depending on your case. – Florida Statutes 61.08(1)
Length of Marriage:
The length of marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage to the date the divorce petition was filed. The length of marriage will affect the type of alimony awarded in your case. In Florida, marriages fall into three categories: short-term (less than 7 years), moderate-term (more than 7 years but less than 17 years), and long-term (more than 17 years). – Florida Statutes 61.08(4)
Factors Considered by the Court
Florida Statutes 61.08(2) lists the relevant factors that the courts consider when deciding whether or not to award alimony, and if so, how much is to be paid. A list of some of the factors can be found under the “Divorce Law in Florida” section of our website.
Each case is different, and our law firm is here to ensure that, whether you have to pay or are looking to receive alimony, you have competent and experienced representation to guide you through the divorce process.
Scott Smiley has handled complex divorce proceedings since 1993, and will guide you through the process so that you are not alone. Please call us with all your family law needs and related questions at 850-386-5777.