The divorce process is never easy, and it can be especially complex when issues regarding child support, child custody, and alimony are involved. Many of the rules and regulations governing these aspects of divorce have been in place for an exceedingly long time, in Florida and in other states across the country. In other words, they have not been statutorily addressed by the legislature to account for the dynamic changes that have recently occurred in family law.
Understanding Alimony in Florida
Many people do not completely understand alimony. Basically, alimony is court-ordered support or maintenance for a former spouse. It can be ordered in a lump sum or in incremental payments, depending on the circumstances surrounding the divorce litigation. In Florida, there are five circumstances in which alimony can be awarded. These are:
● Temporary: Temporary alimony, also known as alimony pendente lite, can be ordered by a court for the support and maintenance of one spouse while divorce proceedings are ongoing;
● Bridge-the-Gap: This type of alimony can be awarded after the divorce is final for a finite period of time not to exceed two years and is used for support and maintenance of a spouse while property is sold or the spouse is fulfilling requirements to reenter the workforce;
● Rehabilitative: Rehabilitative alimony is meant to enable the recipient to pursue education or training to reenter the workforce, and requires the recipient to submit a cost-analysis plan to the court;
● Durational: Durational alimony is meant to help the recipient meet their needs if other options cannot adequately do so, and can be ordered for no longer than the length of time that the spouses were married; or
● Permanent: Permanent alimony can be ordered if the judge finds no other form of alimony is sufficient to allow the recipient to be self-sustaining at a standard close to that which existed during the marriage.
Factors Considered in Awarding Alimony in Florida
In determining whether or not alimony is appropriate, a Florida judge will look at the recipient spouse’s need for alimony payments as well as the other spouse’s ability to pay. If both the need for alimony and the ability pay it exist, then Florida law calls for consideration of several different factors in order to determine which type of alimony is appropriate, including but not limited to the following:
● The standard of living established during the marriage;
● The duration of the marriage;
● The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party;
● The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each party;
● The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment;
● The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
● The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common;
● The tax treatment and consequences of both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment;
● All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party; and
● Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Of course, this is just a basic overview of the types of alimony allowed under Florida law. Even though it is just an overview, you can see how complex figuring out alimony payments can be because of how many factors are taken into consideration. A family law attorney with experience handling divorce and alimony can explain the various types of alimony in more detail and help you understand which may apply to you and what you may need to provide in order to request alimony from the court.
Proposed Alimony Law Changes
Recently, a rather controversial bill that would change alimony laws made its way to Governor Rick Scott. The alimony reform bill, SB 668, was sponsored by Sens. Tom Lee and Kelli Stargel, and Reps. Colleen Burton and Ritch Workman. This particular bill would have changed how Florida judges award alimony by allowing courts to reduce alimony payments if there was a substantial change in circumstances, such as if the person responsible for alimony payments were to become unemployed or reach the age where they become eligible to collect full Social Security benefits. However, the bill also included a provision affecting custody that would have created a legal premise that children should spend an equal amount of time with each parent.
After passing the Florida Senate 24-14 and the Florida House 74-38, the governor vetoed the bill. In Governor Scott’s veto letter, he stated, “Current law directs a judge to consider the needs and interests of the children when first determining a parenting plan and time-sharing schedule. This bill has the potential to upend that policy in favor of putting the wants of a parent before the child’s best interest by creating a premise of equal time sharing.”
While Governor Scott vetoed this bill, as he vetoed another attempt to modify Florida’s alimony law in 2013, it seems apparent that the Florida legislature wants to change Florida’s alimony laws and ensure that they fully represent a modern and holistic approach to spousal support. Representative Workman did indicate that he understands that future attempts at reforming Florida’s family law need to happen on an individual basis that considers each issue independently. In other words, future bills will likely target only one issue related to family law without reaching as far into other areas as SB 668 did. Representative Workman has confirmed his intention to facilitate such individual bills in the next legislative session.
Legal Assistance with Alimony
As you can see, Florida’s alimony law can be very complex. In fact, Florida family law is a delicate and complex legal area as a whole. If you find yourself making the difficult decision to pursue divorce, you should plan to contact a family law attorney to help explain the divorce process and guide you through it. A family law lawyer with experience in alimony can help you understand the alimony process and how it might apply to you, as well as help you understand the various factors used in determining spousal support. Contact Scott J. Stadler today to schedule a consultation and learn more about what divorce litigation might mean for you.