HOW IS ALIMONY DETERMINED?
Spousal support, or alimony, comes in many different forms and is dependent on the lesser earning spouse’s need for economic subsidy beyond their own earning capacity. Beyond need, however, a court can only order alimony if the greater earning spouse has the ability to pay after meeting his/her own reasonable needs. In a divorce situation, it is unlikely that either spouse is going to be able to live the same lifestyle they previously enjoyed while sharing their income to support one collective household. These competing needs result in challenging financial circumstances for each of the separating spouses. Advancing your strongest legal position requires family lawyers who are up to that challenge.
The type and amount of alimony a court may order is based on many factors, including:
- The length of the marriage,
- The standard of living established during the marriage,
- The age and health of the parties,
- Whether one spouse contributed homemaking and child rearing duties while the other spouse concentrated on career building,
- Each spouse’s educational level, vocational skills, and employability,
- What income each spouse has available to them, including wages and/or investments, and
- Whether the homemaking spouse has continued responsibilities to minor children that impedes his/her ability to work full time.
After answering the initial question of whether there is need and ability to pay, all of these factors inform a judge’s consideration of whether alimony should be awarded.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF ALIMONY?
Alimony can be temporary, only during the duration of the divorce litigation, or for a period of time afterwards, ranging anywhere from a couple of years to the rest of either spouse’s life. These are some of the types of alimony:
- Bridge-the-Gap alimony can be ordered for legitimate identifiable short-term needs to assist a spouse in transitioning from married to single life. This type of alimony cannot exceed a two year period.
- Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either redevelopment of previous skills or acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop employment skills or credentials.
- Durational alimony is meant to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a short or moderate marriage. The length of durational alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage.
- Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of a party who lacks the financial ability to meet all their needs in their entirety, and who is unlikely to ever be at a level of full self-support. There is a common misconception that permanent alimony continues indefinitely, however, that is often not the case. “Permanent” in the law has a very specific legal meaning, and it basically means “until further order of the court.” To learn more, navigate over to Modifications.
DOES THE LENGTH OF MY MARRIAGE AFFECT ALIMONY?
The short answer to that is yes. When it comes to an alimony determination, Florida law divides marriages into three categories, segregated only by the length of the marriage. Those categories are short-term, moderate-term, and long-term.
A short-term marriage is a marriage lasting less than 7 years. You must show exceptional circumstances to qualify for permanent alimony after a short-term marriage. It is more likely that some other type of alimony, or combination thereof, is appropriate after a short-term marriage.
A moderate-term marriage is one that lasts between 7 and 17 years, and a spouse may qualify for permanent alimony, but it’s only awarded when no other type of alimony is appropriate. We most commonly see durational alimony awarded in marriages of moderate length, though other types of alimony may also be appropriate.
A long-term marriage is one that lasts 17 years or longer. There is a legal presumption in favor of permanent alimony after a long-term marriage. However, legal presumptions can be defeated by a skilled attorney.
HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT I WILL RECEIVE/PAY PERMANENT ALIMONY?
In the current climate, where there are fewer and fewer stay-at-home spouses, and those who do stay home generally only do so for a few years when their children are very small, there is less of a place for permanent alimony in divorce matters. It is the rare exception. However, because an award of alimony is discretionary, because it is dependent on so many factors, and because there are so many types besides permanent alimony, many of which may fit each individual circumstance, alimony is the great unknown variable that fuels a large amount of divorce litigation. The lawyers at Sasso & Guerrero are excellent predictors of which cases justify various types of alimony and they are equally adept at maximizing its award as they are at brainstorming creative solutions to lessen or avoid it.