In a Florida divorce proceeding, the judge may award alimony (also known as maintenance or spousal support) to a spouse who is in financial need. Alimony generally refers to a monetary amount that the court determines is appropriate for one spouse to pay to the other (i.e., whether for a certain period of time, by virtue of a fixed, one-time sum, or pursuant to some other arrangement) in order to financially support them. While the parties to a marriage can agree to a certain amount via settlement, this is not always possible, as alimony is often one of the most heavily contested aspects of a divorce proceeding.
Florida courts have a significant amount of discretion in awarding alimony and typically do so when there is a large disparity between spousal incomes. In other words, if one spouse decided to quit his or her job and raise the parties’ children for a period of time while the other spouse worked, he or she may be entitled to support. However, keep in mind that there a person does not have an absolute right to be awarded maintenance in Florida divorce proceedings; the decision in this regard is often left to the judge to determine, in his or her discretion, whether such an award is warranted.
In rendering a determination regarding one’s eligibility to receive alimony, a judge must examine several statutorily prescribed factors; such as:
- The standard of living of the parties to the marriage;
- The length of time that the parties were married;
- The age, physical and emotional conditions of each person in the marriage;
- The financial resources of each party, including their respective non-marital and the marital assets as well as debts;
- The earning ability, education level, vocational skill and employability of each party, and, when necessary, the time required for the alimony seeking spouse to obtain sufficient training and education to allow him or her to become employable;
- The financial, physical and emotional contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, homemaking services, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
- The future responsibilities each party will have regarding their minor children;
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment;
- All income sources available to either individual in the marriage, which can include monetary compensation to either party through investments of any asset that he or she holds; and
- Any other factor necessary to accomplish an equitable and just result among the parties.
A Florida alimony award can come in 6 different forms; the appropriate type of which is contingent upon the specific set of circumstances in one’s case. Specifically, these six forms of alimony in Florida are as follows:
Primarily awarded in long term marriages (greater than 17 years), this form of alimony is to allow a spouse who has not worked (or earned a substantially lower income/has lesser earning potential) to continue to live at the same standard he or she enjoyed during the marriage.
Rehabilitative alimony is more typically awarded in medium to short length marriages to allow a party to establish the capacity to support himself/herself through job training, college, and credentialing programs. Oftentimes, a claim for rehabilitative alimony is made when a party decided to forgo job advancement and/or education in order to raise children.
The newest form of alimony in Florida is durational alimony, which is awarded to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time. Keep in mind that in durational alimony, there is no requirement to have a set rehabilitative plan in place for it to be awarded.
This is a short form of alimony that cannot exceed two years in length and is typically awarded to allow a party to ease back into single life, post-divorce.
Lump Sum Alimony
This type of alimony is somewhat of a hybrid. In some circumstances, it can be used to support the other and other times, as a means to equalize asset distribution. Meaning, if a party is not awarded what is deemed as a fair amount of marital property during the property division phase of their case, he or she may seek a lump sum alimony amount to offset the imbalance.
This form of alimony is awarded to allow a party to cover their needs while the divorce case is underway. In other words, a person receives alimony when their divorce case is filed up until a final judgment of dissolution of marriage is entered.
If you are interested in learning more about your legal options, contact the Law Offices of James S. Cunha, P.A. at (561) 429-3924 or via email at [email protected]. Our West Palm Beach divorce law firm has successfully handled many family law and divorce proceedings located throughout the West Palm Beach, Boca Rotan, Wellington, Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Martin County areas.