Alimony laws vary state by state, and alimony awards vary from divorce to divorce. Some people may assume that the wife always walks away from divorce proceedings with alimony, however, that’s not the case. Whether alimony will be allocated and to who depends on a number of factors. Here’s what you need to know about alimony in Florida.
(Please note, this article is meant to be an overview of alimony in Florida. The best way to determine whether you may be eligible for alimony, or whether your soon-to-be-ex may be eligible for alimony, is to discuss your impending divorce with a skilled Tampa divorce lawyer.)
What is Alimony?
Alimony is a court-ordered payment one former spouse must make to the other former spouse after a separation or divorce. There are different types of alimony to allow for financial assistance in a variety of situations, particularly when a divorce will greatly impact one party’s standard of living.
Alimony may be awarded over a period of time, or it may be award all at once. There are different tax implications for these forms of alimony, which should be considered with a financial advisor or alimony attorney.
Alimony can also be agreed to during a collaborative divorce and then signed off on by a judge.
Alimony is not child support. Child support is awarded separately and revolves around parental responsibility. Alimony, on the other hand, concerns itself with the needs of one of the divorcing or separating parties.
Who Can Receive Alimony?
Alimony is not just for women. While historically, alimony was seen as the purview of an ex-wife, in today’s world, more women are working and supporting their families as primary breadwinners. Alimony can be received by a male or female spouse who may suffer financially because of a divorce or separation.
What Are the Different Types of Alimony?
Depending on your situation a judge may award one of the following types of alimony during your divorce proceedings if she sees fit.
When a divorce or separation will lead to a significant change in the standard of living for one party and when said party does not have the means to support themselves, a judge may award permanent alimony. This is more common in cases where one party devoted themselves to supporting the other party’s career or to raising their children, forgoing a career of their own.
Permanent alimony lasts until the beneficiary remarries or until either spouse dies. This type of alimony is more common following the dissolution of a long-term marriage (17+ years).
Durational alimony is alimony that is granted for a specific period of time and is meant to assist with maintaining a standard of living similar to the one held during the marriage. This type of alimony was introduced in 2010 and is meant to assist those who were in short or medium-term marriages. A timeframe is established by the judge and will not extend beyond the length of the marriage. For example, a marriage of ten years may result in durational alimony for a period of time less than ten years.
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded when one party needs assistance with becoming self-supporting. To be awarded, the party must have a plan for seeking credentials, licensure, certifications, or experience that will lead to employment. The duration of rehabilitative alimony is dependent on the plan. For example, if the plan includes the acquisition of a nursing license, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded for the length of the nursing program.
Lump Sum alimony is dispersed in one chunk or in pre-established intervals. It is decided upon by the parties and cannot be modified later.
Bridge the Gap
Bridge the gap alimony aims to assist one party in the transition from married life to being single. This can include assisting with moving expenses or establishing a new home. It is a short-term alimony.
Temporary alimony is meant to sustain one party throughout the divorce process. It is awarded during the divorce proceedings to help “keep the lights on” at the marital residence. It ends once the award is finalized. Further alimony may be awarded if the judge sees fit.
What Will Affect the Amount of Alimony?
Alimony is calculated using a variety of factors including the income of both parties, their ability to support themselves after the divorce, and the length of their marriage. For short and medium-term marriages—those lasting up to 7 years and between 7 and 17 years—a judge will not order alimony that extends beyond the length of the marriage itself. Some form of durational alimony may be awarded depending on the needs of the parties. Longer-term marriages where one party was completely dependent on the other are more likely to result in permanent alimony.
Sometimes alimony is granted during a divorce before a final alimony is granted to ensure the beneficiary party is able to maintain their previous standard of living. Alimony can also be a useful tool for a divorcing partner to introduce themselves back into the workforce or to supplement low wages.
The following are some of the factors a judge may consider when deciding to grant alimony:
- Length of the union
- Employability of either party
- Differences in income between parties
- Whether child support is also needed
- Age of the spouses
- Standard of living during the marriage
How Long Will Alimony Last?
The length of alimony depends on the type. As previously mentioned, permanent alimony lasts until one of the former spouses dies or the beneficiary spouse remarries. Other forms of alimony have a specific end date depending on the reason they are being awarded.
Can I Get Alimony After I’m Already Divorced?
In most cases, it is not possible to return to court once a divorce has been settled and ask for alimony. When it comes to legal matters, however, it’s unwise to say “never.” It is possible that if one party can show a marked change in circumstances, a judge may be willing to revisit and modify a divorce agreement. This is highly unlikely, though. Issues regarding future finances should be discussed openly and honestly with a divorce attorney and possibly a financial adviser so that alimony is addressed during the divorce proceedings.
Can Alimony Be Modified?
Alimony can be modified for a variety of reasons. Either party can petition a judge to revisit an alimony agreement. A judge will then determine whether the agreement needs to be modified and decide whether to hear from both parties and modify the previous agreement.
For a judge to consider modification of alimony, one party must show:
- The supporting party has undergone a significant change in resources and are no longer able to afford paying alimony.
- The supporting party has fallen ill and will have difficulty meeting the financial obligation.
- The beneficiary party no longer needs as much alimony because of a financial change in their situation.
As with any legal issue, the best way to determine what factors may affect you is to discuss your divorce or alimony modification request with a skilled Tampa divorce attorney.
Finding a Tampa Alimony Attorney
If you’re thinking about a divorce and are concerned about alimony, you should consult with a Tampa divorce attorney. A skilled divorce attorney can share different divorce options with you and help you understand the various types of alimony and which may be applicable in your specific case. Every divorce has its own particular nuances, and discussing your situation with a compassionate, knowledgeable Tampa divorce attorney can help you understand how those may play out. Schedule a consultation today to start your divorce on the right foot.