An image of a dollar bill roled up inside a wedding ring to signify alimony in Florida

Alimony is financial support provided to an ex-spouse to help maintain the standard of living maintained during the marriage. There are many different types of alimony in Florida, which vary in amount, form, and duration. If you are seeking alimony or trying to prevent paying alimony, contact a divorce law firm in Tampa for help. The amount and duration of alimony in Florida are determined on a case by case basis. Nobody likes paying for an attorney, but in some cases, it can save a lot of money in the long run. A skilled divorce attorney in Tampa can make a big difference on if and how much alimony is awarded.

The policy behind alimony is to alleviate the financial disparity between the two parties. When determining if alimony should be awarded, Florida family law courts look at one spouse’s ability to pay alimony vs. the other spouse’s need for alimony. If alimony is awarded, the alimony payment should be sufficient to support the spouse’s standard of living.

There are many factors that a judge may consider when determining if an award of Florida alimony is appropriate. If alimony is appropriate, the court will have to determine the amount to be paid and the duration of payments. Regardless, alimony may not leave the person paying alimony with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient.

Florida alimony can be a very contentious and litigious aspect of a divorce, as the outcome may have a long-lasting impact on each party’s finances. If you need assistance with a divorce or claim for alimony, contact a divorce law firm to schedule a consultation.  A divorce attorney in Tampa should be able to provide advice specific to your case during a consultation.

Types of Alimony in Florida

Under Florida divorce law, five types of alimony may be awarded. The type of alimony awarded will determine how long the payments will last. A judge may award any combination of these types of alimony, and payments may be made periodically or in one lump sum.

  1. Temporary alimony is awarded during the divorce proceeding and ends when the final judgment is entered. See Florida divorce case Littlejohn v. Littlejohn.
  2. Bridge the gap alimony looks at what each spouse would need to transition to single life. Bridge the gap alimony is transitional; it considers bills and foreseeable expenses of starting life without a spouse.
  3. Rehabilitative alimony has goals similar to bridge the gap. Rehabilitative alimony considers the time a spouse may need to further their education or obtain employment.
  4. Durational alimony can be awarded in short-term or moderate-term marriages. It is alimony for a pre-determined amount of time and cannot exceed the length of the marriage. For instance, if married for two years, a spouse cannot receive durational alimony for more than two years.
  5. Permanent alimony is usually only granted in moderate or long-term marriages. Permanent alimony usually continues until either death or remarriage.

Alimony Without Filing Divorce

Under Florida Statute 61.09, a spouse may be required to pay alimony without getting divorced. Florida does not recognize legal separation; therefore, if a couple is separated, alimony may still be necessary. Unlike alimony in divorce cases, alimony under this statute acknowledges the continuation of the marriage and the continued right of a spouse to participate in the other spouse’s estate, and the possibility of a reconciliation. See Wood v. Wood.

Spouses have a legal duty to provide financial support to each other. Spousal support (alimony) can be required even if the couple is separated and not yet divorced. Spouses are obligated to provide financial support, approximate to that which has been established during the marriage. See Astor v. Astor.

To be eligible for a divorce in Florida, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of Florida for the six months preceding the filing of the divorce petition. However, there is no residency requirement for seeking alimony under Florida Statute 61.09. See Wachsmuth v. Wachsmuth. Further, there is no requirement that the couple lives apart before the court can order alimony. Moreover, there is no requirement that the party to pay alimony be at fault for the separation. However, if both parties have not lived in Florida as a married couple, there may be issues regarding personal jurisdiction. If the Court lacks personal jurisdiction, it will not compel a party to act, such as paying alimony.

Do I Have To Pay Alimony in Florida?

There is no specific mathematical formula under Florida divorce law to determine if or how much alimony should be paid. Instead, the judge will apply a two-part test based on the details of each case. The first part of the test is to determine whether or not the party requesting alimony needs financial support. If a need is proven, the next step is to determine if the other party can pay alimony. Both the need and ability to pay must be shown with evidence. Satisfying only one part of the test will not be sufficient to receive alimony. If alimony is awarded, the alimony payment should be enough to support the spouse’s standard of living.

Typically, the most important factors are the length of the marriage and income earning capacity of each spouse. Reeves v. Reeves. The standard of living experienced during the marriage,  as well as the health and economic positions of each spouse, will also be factors. The judge may also consider the contributions each spouse made during the marriage. See Florida Statute 61.08.

Does Adultery Affect Alimony?

Florida is commonly referred to as a no-fault divorce state. Under Florida divorce law, you don’t need to prove adultery or other reasons for a divorce. See Florida divorce law 61.052. All Florida law requires is there be irreconcilable differences to obtain a divorce. Therefore, adultery will usually not be relevant to a judge’s determination for alimony. However, if marital funds were used to further the adulterous relationship, it can be considered during the divorce. The funds used on the relationship may be viewed as a waste and be a credit awarded to the innocent spouse.

Does The Length of Marriage Affect Alimony?

Generally, short term marriages are only eligible for short term forms of alimony. Permeant or long durational alimony awards are usually reserved for only long term or moderate-term marriages. Under Florida law, a short-term marriage is a marriage lasting less than seven years. A moderate-term marriage is classified as a marriage lasting between 7 and 17 years. A marriage lasting longer than 17 years is considered a long-term marriage. See Fichtel v. Fichtel.

Can Florida Alimony Be Modified?

Under Florida divorce law, you can modify alimony in Florida if there has been a substantial, material, and unexpected change in circumstances that was not contemplated for at the time the amount of alimony was initially set. The modification can either increase, decrease, or terminate the amount of alimony. Usually, a petition to modify alimony will have to be filed in the same court where the divorce was filed.

Modify Alimony Based on a Change of Income

Alimony may be modified or terminated upon the death, remarriage, or when the ex-spouse enters into a supportive relationship. However, the most common reason a modification of alimony is an involuntary loss of income. When determining if modification is justified, the court will consider the parties’ relative financial circumstances at the time of the final judgment, compared with the parties’ relative financial circumstances when the petition for modification was filed. See Mastromonico v. Mastromonico. Voluntary reductions in income by incurring debt is usually not a valid basis for modification. See Cowie v. Cowie. Additionally, voluntary reductions in income will also not serve as a basis to reduce the amount of alimony.

Modify Alimony Because of Remarriage

The fundamental policy behind an award of alimony is the disparity in the financial resources of the two parties. Florida law considers one party’s ability to pay alimony vs. the other party’s need for alimony. See Eckert v. Eckert. Therefore, if an ex-spouse remarries or has become involved in a supportive relationship, it may create a change in financial resources that creates a need to modify alimony. However, Florida courts have ruled that voluntary contributions of a live-in companion cannot be substituted for the legal obligation of a former spouse. See Mott v. Mott.  Moreover, the financial resources that should be considered by the court are only the resources the parties have available and that are in their control. See Azzarelli v. Pupello.

Determining whether the supportive relationship is grounds for an alimony modification will depend on the circumstances of each case. The court will consider many factors, such as:

  • The extent the party receiving alimony and the person they are in a relationship with have acted as a married couple. For instance, are they using the same last name, living together, and acting as husband and wife?
  • The extent to which the parties have pooled or comingled their assets and income.
  • The extent of financial support provided to the ex-spouse by the person they are now in a relationship with.

The financial information of a former spouse’s new partner may be confidential and barred from a petition to modify alimony in Florida. The financial information of private persons is entitled to protection by Florida’s constitutional right of privacy. See Mogul v. Mogul. However, if the Tampa divorce lawyer seeking modification can prove the financial information is relevant, or there is a compelling reason to compel disclosure, it will be admissible in a modification case.

How To Collect Alimony Owed

Unfortunately, some parties will refuse or make it difficult to collect the alimony they are ordered to pay. However, Florida alimony law does provide for a variety of ways to enforce judgments, including garnishment. In garnishment cases, the funds go directly to the ex-spouse, rather than their original recipient. The most common type of garnishment is wage garnishment. With wage garnishments, the alimony is deducted from the employee’s salary and forwarded to the ex-spouse by the employer.

Garnishments are not reserved for just wages. Other forms of income may be garnished as well. For example, in City of Miami v. Spurrier, the court ruled that pensions could also be garnished for alimony payments.  Further, spendthrift trusts specifically designed to protect the trustee’s assets from creditors can be garnished to pay alimony.  See Florida alimony garnishment case,  Gilbert v. Gilbert.

Many people who are not experienced divorce lawyers may think that there is a “loophole”, which allows anyone to get out of a garnishment order. There is indeed a “Head of Household” defense to garnishment under Florida Statute §222.11.  However, the exception was revised to provide for alimony, regardless of head-of-household status many years ago. Therefore, the head of household exemption will not prevent alimony from garnishing wages.

Consult a 5-Star Divorce and Alimony Law Firm

Navigating the rocky road of divorce is rarely easy or pleasant. However, the accomplished attorneys with Florida Law Advisers will work tirelessly to help you receive a fair divorce settlement. They will serve as your advocate throughout your divorce proceedings and strive to ensure that you receive your fair share of the property and other key assets linked to your marriage.

We invite you to contact us at Florida Law Advisers today for a complimentary consultation with one of our experienced divorce lawyers. In addition to helping you understand how alimony and spousal support may affect you, we will provide the support you need to handle other issues that may arise as divorce proceedings unfold. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal representative during this difficult time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I receive alimony in a divorce?
What is permanent alimony?
How much alimony will I receive?
How long do you have to be married for alimony?
Can I change the amount of alimony?
If my ex-spouse remarries will alimony terminate?
What if I can not afford to pay alimony?
What to do if my ex has stops paying alimony?
Will Adultery Affect Alimony?
Can I receive alimony without filing for divorce?
Does the length of marriage affect alimony?