We frequently speak with clients that were the primary or sole breadwinner during a marriage, and, at times, they often find the notion of alimony or spousal support baffling because they supported their spouse for years during the marriage. However, the legal justification for alimony is that marriage is a partnership. One spouse’s effectiveness and success at earning a substantial livelihood may be directly related to the contributions and sacrifices made by the other spouse in taking care of the family home, working to pay for the other spouse’s education or training, and raising the couple’s children.
Many times the spouse that is the lower wage earner or non-wage earner in the marriage will have forgone opportunities to obtain higher education, work experience and other training, which will leave this spouse financially disadvantaged in the event of a marital dissolution. Alimony is designed to compensate the other spouse for these sacrifices and also to ensure that the spouse is not denied the benefits of the success that a spouse’s domestic responsibilities helped make possible for the other spouse.
The decision to grant alimony as well as the amount may be based on the disadvantaged spouse’s need (i.e. employability and earning capacity), employment history during the marriage, income of the higher earning spouse, and the marital standard of living. Florida law provides for several different types of alimony that serve different functions, including the following:
Bridge the Gap Alimony: is intended as alimony of temporary duration to facilitate a spouse while transitioning to self-sufficiency.
Rehabilitative Alimony: is intended to assist a spouse while he or she pursues additional job training and/or education to achieve the ability for self-support.
Alimony pendent lite: This is interim alimony paid while the marital dissolution is pending but prior to a final judgment.
Durational Alimony: is designed to provide the financially-weaker spouse with economic assistance for a specific period of time. However, durational alimony will not exceed the length of time that the parties were married. Furthermore, an award of durational alimony ends upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the spouse receiving the durational alimony.
Permanent Alimony: is support that continues indefinitely into the future unless certain circumstances arise.
Lump Sum Alimony: can be provided when an award for permanent periodic alimony is justified, the justification for a lump sum award rather than a periodic award is found, factual findings are included in the judgment, and there is sufficient money available for awarding a lump sum to a spouse. Lump sum alimony may also be awarded in order to accomplish the equitable distribution of property. The distinction between treating a lump sum alimony award as support or a property distribution is very important for enforcement purposes. Lump sum alimony intended to provide support to a spouse can be enforced through contempt.
In Florida, there is no precise formula for the calculation of spousal support though a Florida court will consider a number of factors that are outlined in Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.08. Alimony awards are especially hard to predict in Florida even for experienced Florida divorce attorneys because you may get a dozen different calculations from a dozen different family law courts in Florida. While several other states have been recently moving toward a set formula allowing for a specific calculation of certain alimony awards, Florida courts will look at the assets and income of the parties when considering the following factors:
- Duration of the marriage
- Employment prospects
- Earning capacities
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Value of monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage
- Income and assets available to each spouse
- Ages of the parties
- Fairness of the situation
Anyone reviewing these factors should be able to see why there is such a lack of consistency in Florida alimony awards. For example, the fairness factor essentially grants a judge an enormous amount of discretion, which means widely divergent outcomes. Because the issue of predicting and awarding alimony in Florida varies so widely, it is important that you are represented by an experienced West Palm Beach alimony attorney who can skillfully argue and present evidence relevant to these factors. No matter where you are located, experienced West Palm Beach divorce attorney James S. Cunha and his legal team are just a phone call away.