Alimony and Spousal Support

Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, can be awarded in certain cases. Florida law does not utilize alimony guidelines or calculations. Rather, case law interprets the alimony statute to assess whether there is an ability to pay versus whether there is an actual need for support. Our Firm engages in a fact-intensive investigation into each party’s income, work history, spending habits and expenses. The amount of alimony and its duration vary based upon several statutory factors, including but not limited to, the duration of your marriage, the earning capacity of each party, and the mental and physical health of each party.

 

Need and Ability Analysis and Tax Implications of Alimony Awards

A spouse requesting alimony may also have an obligation to obtain employment, even if he or she has not previously worked during the marriage. This circumstance arises in cases where one spouse was the sole source of income during the marriage, but that same spouse cannot afford to pay the expenses for two separate households, ergo, a need for the spouse requesting alimony to contribute by becoming gainfully employed.

Our attorneys are well versed on a variety of tax issues that affect alimony awards for both payors and payees. This knowledge base allows us to effectively work with your accountant and financial advisors to successfully resolve matters.

 

Types of Alimony

Our attorneys have assisted divorce clients in achieving all of the four types of alimony:  Bridge-The-Gap, Rehabilitative, Durational and Permanent.

  1. Bridge-the-Gap Alimony is non-modifiable alimony awarded to assist a spouse to adjust to living on their own as a single person or parent. It may be awarded in marriages of short duration and its term cannot exceed two (2) years.  
  2. Rehabilitative Alimony is support paid to a spouse so that he or she can complete their education or training if it was interrupted by the marriage, or obtain a degree or certification so as to assist them to become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony may also include the cost of the education or training.  
  3. Durational Alimony is often applied to marriages of seven (7) to seventeen (17) years of duration. The support obligation can last up to the duration of the marriage, pursuant to the statute. The purpose of Durational Alimony is to provide financial assistance to a spouse, not to meet a “lifestyle” that he or she may have enjoyed during the marriage.
  4. Permanent Alimony is for marriages lasting longer than seventeen (17) years and is to meet the needs and necessities of life as established during the marriage. While this is commonly where spouses request that they have all of their expenses paid, case law suggests that “not every expense” may necessarily be included in calculating the amount of alimony. Permanent alimony is also awarded in certain circumstances where a party is considered unable to work due to a debilitating physical or cognitive condition that prevents them from being able to obtain employment.

 

Upward and Downward Modification of Alimony

As mentioned above, alimony may (or may not) be modified after the entry of the original divorce judgment. An alimony modification is when a party re-opens his or her case and makes an application to the Court to modify, or change, either the amount of alimony or its duration.

 

Our Continued Attention to Detail in the Ever-Changing Landscape of Alimony in Florida

Unlike Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Texas, Florida does not have alimony guidelines. Without more guidance from the Florida Legislature in determining the amount and duration of alimony, parties and their counsel can take disparate positions which can result in protracted litigation.

Over the past few years, you may have read that several attempts have been made at the legislative level to implement alimony guidelines and abrogate permanent alimony. To date, that legislation has not passed, but it has been brought before the Florida Legislature for the past several years and we anticipate the same will occur in 2017. Should any changes occur, we will have an updated analysis and explanation of the new law and its nuances on our website.

 

Equitable Distribution

Florida is one of 40 states that utilize Equitable Distribution when determining how to characterize and distribution marital and non-marital assets and liabilities.

Equitable Distribution begins with the premise that assets and liabilities acquired and incurred during the marriage are presumed to be marital. Florida has strict definitions of what qualifies as a marital asset and what qualifies as a non-marital asset.

While Florida used to award what was formerly known as “special equity” that has since been abrogated and in some instances a party can seek an “unequal distribution” of the marital estate.

Examples of assets are real estate, (the marital home and investment property), brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, bank accounts, IRAs are all distributed in a dissolution proceeding. Examples of liabilities are mortgages, lines of credit, credit cards and notes payable. Property that includes a combination of assets and liabilities, such as a business, corporation, LLC or partnership are discussed separately under “Business Valuation” and we encourage you to review that section of our website.