Alimony In Florida Guide: Divorce & Family Law

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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.

How Does Alimony Work in Florida

Under Florida law, a spouse is entitled to receive alimony in various forms. This could manifest as bridge-the-gap alimony, aimed at providing short-term relief, or as rehabilitative alimony, whose goal is to help the recipient achieve a state of financial independence. Alimony could also be awarded on a durational basis for a pre-determined period or on a permanent basis, offering sustained financial assistance.

In total, there are five types of award alimony. A judge may award any combination of these types of alimony payments, which may be made periodically or in one lump sum. The types of awarding alimony are determined by how long the payments will last.

  1. Temporary alimony is awarded during the divorce proceeding and ends when the final judgment is entered. See Florida divorce case Littlejohn v. Littlejohn to learn more about temporary alimony.
  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 one spouse may need to further their education short or moderate and/or obtain appropriate employment.
  4. Durational alimony in Florida 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, one 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 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.

The amount of lump-sum alimony in Florida depends on the specific details of each case. There is no mathematical formula to determine the amount of alimony. Instead, it will be based on an amount necessary to maintain the standard of living you became accustomed to during the marriage.

Under Florida divorce law, alimony payments may be modified if there has been a substantial change in circumstances of either party. The modification can either increase, decrease, or terminate the alimony award to one spouse.

Florida divorce law does allow for the opportunity to receive lump sum alimony. The law applies a two-part test to determine if an alimony award is appropriate. First, you must prove you need alimony. Secondly, you must show the other party has the ability to pay.

In many instances, remarriage can be grounds to modify or terminate alimony. Additionally, being in a supportive relationship may be enough to terminate alimony, even if they have not married.

If you need to lower or stop permanent alimony, a petition for alimony modification should be filed. Florida law does not allow one spouse to unilaterally change the terms of Florida alimony, even if they have a legitimate basis for doing so. Therefore, if a change is needed, you should seek approval from the court.

If your ex has stopped paying permanent alimony without court approval, you may have grounds to file a motion for contempt. If the motion is granted, the court will require the permanent alimony to be paid. Additionally, they can impose penalties against the party who failed to pay.

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, one spouse may be required to pay durational alimony in Florida without filing for divorce. Spouses have a legal duty to provide financial support for living expenses, childcare, and other relevant factors. Moreover, there is no requirement that the party paying the lump sum alimony to be at fault for the separation.

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.

Most often, permanent alimony is only available for marriages that have lasted at least 17 years. This type of alimony is intended to provide for the needs and necessities of a spouse who lacks the financial ability to be self-sustaining.

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.