Divorce Attorney Scott J. Stadler

    • 16 MAY 16

    Understanding Rehabilitative Alimony in Florida

    Understanding Rehabilitative Alimony in FloridaThe divorce process can be both stressful and complex, carrying consequences long beyond the final judgment. While many people may be concerned with obtaining support payments, or alimony, after the marriage, the truth of the matter is that a person’s needs depend on his or her own individual situation, and what might be right for one person might not be right for another. As such, in Florida, there are five different types of alimony that a party to divorce might receive. One such form of alimony, rehabilitative alimony, provides specific relief for specific needs.

    Types of Alimony

    Under Florida law there are specific requirements that must be met in order for the court to grant any form of alimony. The first thing a court must determine is whether a party actually needs alimony payments and whether a party can actually pay the alimony payments. If the court finds that alimony is necessary, then the court chooses the appropriate form of alimony, and determines the amount and duration of the alimony based on a number of factors, including:

    • The length of the marriage
    • The age of the parties, and
    • The contributions each party made to the marriage.

    In addition to listing what the court may consider when determining the size and duration of alimony in a case, Florida law also provides additional guidelines to help categorize the length of the marriage. The statute divides marriages into three categories, which are short, moderate, and long. A short marriage is any marriage that has lasted for less than seven years. A moderate marriage is any marriage lasting between 7 and 17 years. Finally, a long marriage is one that has lasted for more than 17 years.

    Once the court has considered the relevant factors, the next matter at hand becomes which category of alimony would be appropriate given the needs and circumstances of the parties. Under Florida law, there are five different types of alimony payments, which are alimony pendente lite, bridge-the-gap alimony, durational alimony, permanent alimony, and rehabilitative alimony.

    Rehabilitative Alimony

    While it may not be uncommon for both spouses to work or maintain careers in today’s world, there are still many marriages that operate under the traditional household model in which one spouse “earns the bacon” while the other spouse takes care of the home. In fact, it is not uncommon for one spouse to give up on educational or career opportunities in order to support the other spouse in his or her endeavors. While this is the act of a loving and caring spouse, the unfortunate truth is that in the event of a divorce, that spouse will then be responsible for providing for him or herself with only a basic education or set of skills, or a prolonged gap in career practice. In addition, the presence of minor children can only compound the difficulties a party to divorce might have to consider in providing for his or her new household.

    While it may seem like a good idea to provide permanent alimony in such circumstances, legislators in Florida have recognized that simply providing a regular payment to one spouse does not truly help that spouse in caring for his or her family. While most other forms of alimony are aimed at providing monetary support for the needs of the individual, rehabilitative alimony is focused more on the goals of the individual. The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to provide an individual with the capacity to support him or herself through the development or redevelopment of skills and credentials. While this can cover spouses who have taken a break from work in order to provide for the family, it also allows spouses who did not have any formal training before the marriage to move forward in a new direction.

    Even though some people might be skeptical about the efficiency of this model of alimony, there are a number of issues that limit abuse of the system and allow both parties to benefit. One of the first restrictions that will be faced when seeking rehabilitative alimony is the requirement of a rehabilitative plan.

    The Rehabilitative Plan

    In order to obtain rehabilitative alimony in a divorce, an individual seeking such alimony must first have a clearly defined rehabilitative plan to present to the court. While the law provides no further assistance in determining whether a plan is clearly defined, courts will generally rely on extensive case history to help determine the clarity of a rehabilitative plan.

    Because this plan will be heavily relied upon, a party planning a rehabilitative plan will need to make it as specific as possible. Not only does it provide the court with an idea of where you are going, but also, how you intend to provide for yourself in the future. Examples of what should be provided in a rehabilitative plan can include, but are not limited to:

    • The degree the individual is seeking, if any
    • The cost of any seminars that may be necessary for re-training or being re-licensed
    • The length of time it will take to earn that degree
    • The name of the college the individual seeks to attend, or has already been admitted to
    • The cost of tuition for the duration of attendance
    • The estimated cost of textbooks for the duration of attendance
    • And the prospect of future employment.

    While the rehabilitative plan may be presented either orally or in writing, it is important to remember that the rehabilitative plan will be included as a part of any order awarding rehabilitative alimony. As such, it is important to make sure that you prepare a written copy of the rehabilitative plan, if only for your own peace of mind. Unfortunately, a solid rehabilitative plan alone will not be sufficient to obtain rehabilitative award, as there are a number of issues that can factor into the court’s decision. As such, the best way to protect yourself is to work with a skilled and dedicated attorney.