Alimony In Florida Guide: Divorce & Family Law

cash in ring

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. The amount and duration of alimony in Florida are determined on a case-by-case basis. If you are seeking alimony in Florida or trying to prevent paying alimony, contact a divorce law firm in Tampa for help. A skilled Tampa divorce lawyer can make a big difference in if and how much alimony is awarded. Nobody likes paying for an attorney, but in some cases, it can save a lot of money in the long run.

The policy behind alimony is to alleviate the financial disparity between the two parties. When determining alimony that should be awarded, Florida family law courts look at one spouse’s ability to pay vs. the other spouse’s need for alimony. If permanent 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 alimony in Florida is appropriate. If alimony is appropriate, the court will have to determine the durational alimony amount to bridge the gap. Regardless, alimony may not leave the person paying alimony with significantly less net income than the recipient’s net income.

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

Types of Alimony Available

Under Florida divorce law, several types of alimony may be awarded, such as:

  • Suit Alimony (pendente lite) – alimony that is paid while the court has not yet settled the divorce. This is intended to provide temporary financial relief to a spouse while the divorce is pending.
  • Durational Alimony – economic assistance for a set period of time. The duration of the alimony payments may not last any longer than the duration of the marriage. For instance, if a marriage lasted only 2 years, the durational alimony payments may not exceed 2 years. Durational alimony is typically reserved for marriages lasting less than 17 years.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony – alimony that is awarded to a spouse who has stopped working due to the marriage, and needs support for a period of time until they can reestablish their career. This type of alimony requires the recipient to provide the court with a specific and defined rehabilitative plan for their career.
  • Bridge-the-Gap Alimony – is intended to assist spouses with a legitimate, identifiable short-term need while transitioning from marriage to being single. The length of the alimony payments may not exceed 2 years.
  • Permanent Alimony – is payment to help a spouse maintain the standard of living they have become accustomed to during the marriage. This type of alimony will provide for the needs and necessities of a spouse who lacks the financial ability to be self-sustaining. Most often, permanent alimony is only available for marriages that have lasted for at least 17 years.

Alimony Without Filing Divorce

Under Florida Statute 61.09, a paying spouse may be required to pay alimony without getting divorced. Florida does not recognize legal separation; therefore, alimony may still be necessary if a couple is separated. Unlike alimony in divorce cases, alimony under this statute acknowledges the continuation of the marriage, the continued right of a paying 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 spouse 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 durational alimony award 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 paying 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 pay rehabilitative alimony.

Do I Have To Pay Alimony in Florida?

When determining an alimony award, there is no specific mathematical formula under Florida divorce law. Instead, the judge will apply a two-part test based on the details of each case. The first part of the test determines 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 the income-earning capacity of each spouse. Reeves v. Reeves. The standard of living experienced during the marriage and 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 permanent alimony in Florida. However, if marital assets 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?

Permanent alimony or long durational alimony awards are usually reserved for long-term or moderate-term marriages. Generally, short-term marriages are only eligible for short-term forms of alimony.

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 when the amount of alimony was initially set. The modification can either increase, decrease, or terminate the amount of alimony. Usually, a petition to modify permanent alimony, durational alimony, or rehabilitative alimony will have to be filed in the same court where the divorce was filed.

Modify Alimony Based on a Change of Income

Alimony obligation may be modified or terminated upon the death, remarriage, or when the other spouse enters into a supportive relationship. However, the most common reason for modifying 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 income reductions by incurring debt are 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. See Cowie v. Cowie.

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 change financial resources and create 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 court should consider the financial resources the only 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 in the Florida courts. The court will consider many factors, such as:

  • The extent to which the party receiving alimony and the paying spouse they are in a relationship have acted as a married couple. For instance, are they using the same last name, long-term marriage, living together, and acting as husband and wife?
  • The extent to which the parties have pooled or comingled their assets and net income.
  • Living established between recipient spouse and other spouse.
  • Child care and sufficient education if minor children are involved within the marriage duration.
  • 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, suppose the Tampa divorce lawyer seeking modification can prove the financial information is relevant, or there is a compelling reason to compel disclosure. In that case, it will be admissible in a modification case.

How To Collect Alimony Owed

Unfortunately, the paying spouse will refuse or make it difficult to collect the alimony they are ordered to pay. However, Florida alimony law provides 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 in a lump sum payment.

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 are 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 to bridge the gap. There is indeed a “Head of Household” defense to garnishment under Florida Statute §222.11. However, the exception was revised to provide alimony award, 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, P.A., will work tirelessly to help you receive a fair divorce settlement. Attorney-client relationship will serve as your advocate throughout your divorce proceedings and strive to ensure that you receive your fair share of marital assets, the property, and other key assets linked to your marriage.

We invite you to contact us at Florida Law Advisers, P.A., today for a free 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 for calculating alimony, child custody, income differential, rehabilitative plan, tax treatment, and any other extraordinary circumstances that may arise during these exceptional circumstances as divorce proceedings unfold. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal representative during this difficult time.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no minimum amount of time you must be married to receive an amount of alimony. However, the length of the marriage will is a factor in determining the alimony award and the term.

In Florida, adultery will usually not be relevant to a judge’s determination for permanent 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 considered a waste and be a credit awarded to the innocent spouse.

Yes, the length of the marriage will impact the judge’s decision to determine rehabilitative alimony. Generally, short-term marriages are only eligible for short rehabilitative alimony. Permanent alimony, durational alimony, and rehabilitative alimony awards are usually reserved for only long-term or medium-term marriages.

At Florida Law Advisers, P.A., we are committed to solving your divorce, bankruptcy, and immigration matters. We are a full-service law firm serving clients in Tampa, Hillsborough County, Orlando, and throughout Central Florida.