Spousal Support In Florida
Spousal support is one of the more challenging aspects of divorce. Breaking a family into two separate households is a complicated process. It’s not always enough to simply divide all of the marriage’s current assets in half and call it a day.
All too often, one spouse is in a more secure position to begin their next life. Spousal support or alimony, is designed to level the playing field, so that both parties can start single life on equal footing.
At Leap Frog Divorce, our job is to make sure this step is as fair as possible.
WHAT IS SPOUSAL SUPPORT?
Spousal support is when one spouse provides financial support to the other spouse for a period of time.
Most people think of “alimony payments” as something that women receive from their ex-husbands, but court judges may order that spousal support be paid to either spouse.
After your assets and debts have been split, the judge will address any requests for spousal support.
Your judge will first figure out if either of you needs financial support, then determine whether the other spouse has the ability to pay it.
It is important to note that the purpose of alimony is to pay for a spouse’s current needs—not to help him/her accumulate cash in savings.
If there is a need and the other spouse has an ability to pay, the third step for the judge is to determine the type of spousal support and the amount.
Florida court judges also have the option to award nominal alimony if they find that one party has a need for spousal support but the other spouse lacks sufficient resources at the time of the final hearing to meet those needs.
SCHEDULE A 1-HOUR CONSULTATION FOR JUST $300 TO PLAN YOUR NEXT STEPS
TYPES OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT
There are four types of spousal support that may be awarded in a divorce.
1. DURATIONAL ALIMONY
If there is no ongoing need for permanent financial support, the judge may award it for a specific period of time.
The purpose of durational alimony is to provide a spouse with economic assistance for a set period of time after a short-term or moderate-term marriage, or following a long-term marriage if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.
Durational alimony ends when either spouse dies or when the person receiving the alimony remarries. The payment amount can be modified, but the length cannot.
Another limitation is that durational alimony cannot last longer than the length of the marriage.
For example, if you were married for 10 years, the length of a durational alimony award cannot exceed 10 years. In my experience, many court judges seem to award durational alimony for somewhere around half the length of a marriage.
2. PERMANENT ALIMONY
If no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances, the judge may award permanent alimony.
This type of spousal support is primarily awarded after long-term marriages and is used to maintain one spouse’s needs as they have been established during the marriage.
It terminates upon the death of either spouse and is modifiable.
3. REHABILITATIVE ALIMONY
Rehabilitative alimony is typically awarded to assist a spouse in becoming financially independent.
For example, if one spouse was a stay-at-home parent for many years, they may need to learn or redevelop certain skills or credentials.
Further, if the spouse receiving rehabilitative alimony fails to comply with the rehabilitative plan, spousal support may be modified or even terminated.
4. BRIDGE-THE-GAP ALIMONY
Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse in making the transition from being married to being single. It is designed to help a spouse with identifiable, short-term needs.
HOW IS SPOUSAL SUPPORT CALCULATED?
Determining alimony payments is hardly an arbitrary matter.
Judges are required to consider a list of factors when determining the appropriate type and amount of spousal support:
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age and physical/emotional condition of each party;
- The financial resources of each party, including nonmarital and marital assets;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties, including any time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training;
- Each party’s contribution to the marriage, including but not limited to homemaking, childcare, education, and career building of the other party;
- The responsibilities each party will have regarding any minor children they have in common;
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award;
- All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments;
- Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
However, just because a judge awarded you or your spouse a certain amount of spousal support does not mean that it is set in stone. Alimony can be modified as your (or your ex-spouse’s) circumstances change.
Florida marriages are broken out into categories based upon length as follows:
- Short Term Marriage – less than 7 years
- Medium Term Marriage – between 7-17 years
- Long Term Marriage – more than 17 years
The marriage length is measured from the wedding day until someone files for divorce.
EXAMPLES OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT AWARDED
Generally, any alimony award cannot leave the paying spouse with significantly less income than that of the spouse receiving the alimony.
Over the last 20 years, there has been at least one significant economic downturn. Because of tough economic times, it is difficult—if not impossible—for any divorce settlement or decision to provide enough money to each spouse to maintain the standard of living that they enjoyed while they were married.
Common sense tells us that, no matter what happens in a divorce case, the two family units created by the divorce cannot maintain the same lifestyle.
There are no alimony guidelines in Florida, but in my experience, alimony awards are generally somewhere between 20% and 40% of a payor’s income.
For example, if your spouse’s income is $5,000 per month, you might expect to receive $1,000-2,000 per month.
THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
Spousal support can be complicated. That’s why it’s important to have a guide who can help you identify the rights and responsibilities that you might overlook trying to do it yourself.
At Leap Frog Divorce, we are 100% focused on family law and divorce. As such, we are familiar with all of the issues, complications, and emotions surrounding divorce. We’re ready to help you today and we have financing options.
To Talk With AJ