Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is the financial support paid by one spouse to the other after divorce. Contrary to some widespread assumptions, its aim is not to punish one of the parties by imposing coercive monetary reparations. The main purpose of these awards is to provide the standard of living of the lower-earning party maintained during the marriage and to equate the financial situation of both.
According to Florida alimony laws, alimony can be awarded to either spouse with no regard to gender but considering the needs and financial capabilities of both parties. When determining its appropriateness, form, amounts, and duration, the court considers a number of factors. As a result, the decisions concerning alimony tend to be quite diverse, which hinders any generalized inferences and more or less exact predictions.
In June 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Florida alimony reform bill, which brings certain changes to Florida divorce alimony law and applies to all petitions for marriage dissolution with spousal support involved, as well as petitions for its modification after the announcement of the final judgment. In this article, we aim to explain some key facts about alimony in Florida and the difference the new legislature makes.
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Types of Alimony in Florida
Fla. Stat. § 61.08 defines four types of alimony in Florida, namely, durational, rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, and temporary alimony.
Durational alimony is awarded for a certain period of time to provide financial assistance to the lower-earning spouse. Its duration depends on the length of the marriage and ends when one of the spouses dies or the receiving party remarries. However, this type of alimony can be terminated earlier, or its amount may be modified under significant change of circumstances (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(8)).
Rehabilitative alimony is provided to help the requesting spouse obtain the ability to support themselves financially. In other words, financial assistance is allocated so that a person can work, train, or study to get or redevelop skills or credentials necessary for successful employment.
A court may award rehabilitative alimony to a spouse only if there is a specific “rehabilitative plan.” It should specify the necessary amount of money to be paid, the needs it should cover, and the time during which it should be paid. The payment normally ends as soon as the proposed rehabilitative plan is completed, or the payments may be terminated forcefully if the receiving spouse does not follow the plan. Rehabilitative alimony is also modifiable under significant changes in circumstances (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(7)).
Bridge-the-gap alimony is meant to help the requesting spouse with their short-term needs during a transition to a single status. It cannot last longer than 2 years and can be terminated earlier in case either party dies, or the receiving party remarries. Unlike other types of alimony, bridge-the-gap one is unmodifiable (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(6)).
Temporary alimony is awarded for a short period while the court action is pending. The aim of temporary alimony is to provide financial support to a lower-earning spouse to maintain their living standards during the ongoing divorce process before the judge approves and signs the final orders. Naturally, it ends as soon as the case is over and may be substituted by another type of maintenance. To qualify for temporary alimony, the requesting party should prove to the court their financial needs by presenting sufficient evidence. The terms of temporary alimony, also known as alimony pendente lite, are outlined in Fla. Stat. § 61.071.
Formerly, Florida laws also recognized permanent alimony, a lifetime financial support mostly awarded to a spouse who needs it after 17 or more years of married life, which is a long-term marriage as defined by the previous statute revision. However, according to the Alimony Reform Bill enacted in June 2023, this type of maintenance was eliminated, and the time frame of the long-term marriage was changed.
Factors Considered in Determining Alimony
Alimony or spousal support in Florida is subject to regulations and laws outlined in Fla. Stat. § 61.08. The requesting party must have sufficient reasons for spousal support. To determine if they do, the court studies the case and all the accompanying circumstances and considers a number of factors related to both spouses, their marriage, and divorce. If the court finds that the petitioner qualifies for these payments, it defines their type, amount, and duration.
Eligibility for Alimony
Eligibility for alimony is determined on the basis of the requesting spouse’s needs and the paying spouse’s abilities. To approve this decision, the court considers the following factors:
- Marriage duration;
- The living standards in the marriage and the expected needs of each spouse after the divorce;
- Both parties’ age, physical and mental health, and emotional condition;
- Both parties’ income and resources;
- Both parties’ earning potential, educational level, skills, and employability;
- Each party’s contribution to the marriage;
- Each party’s responsibilities towards marital children after the divorce;
- Any other factors the court deems appropriate ( Stat. § 61.08(3)).
How Long is Alimony Paid in Florida
How long the alimony is paid for in Florida depends on the type of spousal support determined by the court. The most important factor that influences its duration is the length of the marriage. As per the 2023 Florida alimony reform bill, there are 3 types of marriage:
- Short-term lasts less than 10 years;
- Moderate-term lasts from 10 to 20 years;
- Long-term lasts 20 years or more.
Since bridge-the-gap alimony is a kind of short-term assistance during a transitional period, it cannot exceed 2 years. It is primarily awarded in cases of short-term marriage.
Rehabilitative alimony is purpose-oriented and can also be viewed as short-term financial assistance. According to Florida law, it can be awarded for no longer than 5 years.
Durational alimony is the most sensitive to the marriage length. The court usually awards it in cases involving moderate-term and long-term marriages. According to Florida Statutes, durational alimony is not awarded if a marriage lasted less than 3 years and can last for up to:
- 50% of the length of a short-term marriage;
- 60% of the length of a moderate-term marriage;
- 75% of the length of a long-term marriage.
In any case, the duration of spousal support payments cannot exceed the time the parties lived together as a married couple.
How is Alimony Calculated in Florida?
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) has offered a universal formula to calculate spousal support across the United States. For this, 20% of the receiving party’s gross income must be deducted from 30% of the paying party’s gross income. However, judges rarely follow this formula since deviation factors are too diverse, and every judgment significantly depends on each individual situation.
The average alimony payment in Florida is also difficult to calculate since each case is unique, and the court’s decision is based on every situation. Still, according to cumulative data, the awarded amounts are rarely higher than 40% of the paying party’s gross income.
Are Alimony Payments Fair?
The court does not award any maintenance payments due to prejudice toward one of the parties. The main aim of spousal support is to alleviate possible economic challenges for the lower-earning ex-spouse caused by their changed social status and life circumstances. In other words, the court awards alimony to provide the needy party with sufficient financial support for a certain time so that they can enjoy the same standard of living they used to during the marriage until they become self-supporting or enter into other supportive relations.
At the same time, each case is studied in detail, and the judgment about any payments to one of the parties by another one is only approved if there is the need for it and the ability to pay. For example, even if the requesting spouse needs financial support, but their ex-partner does not have sufficient resources to pay it, the court may not order them to pay spousal support. On the other hand, it may not be awarded either if the requesting spouse’s financial situation is quite decent to make them self-sustaining, although the other party’s income and resources permit them to provide for their ex.
Can Florida Alimony Be Modified?
The short answer to “Can alimony be changed after divorce?” is, “Yes, it can” under the so-called “substantial change in circumstances” of at least one of the spouses. The only type of maintenance not subject to modifications is bridge-the-gap alimony.
There are certain prerequisites, conditions, and exceptions that must be considered by the spouse who is going to file for any modifications. All the terms of alimony modifications are explained in detail in Fla. Stat. § 61.14.
The court may enact changes in alimony payments if it finds such a change fair after considering all the accompanying circumstances. Any modifications may be possible when:
- The financial abilities or circumstances of either party change;
- The paying party has reached the retirement age defined by the Social Security Administration and has retired.
In the second case, the spouse who is paying alimony must be able to prove that their retirement reduces their ability to pay, and the court must approve this fact. When making this decision, the court will consider a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- The paying party’s age and health;
- The customary retirement age in their profession;
- The type and nature of the performed work;
- The paying party’s motivation for retirement;
- The receiving party’s needs and ability to contribute to their satisfaction;
- The possible economic impact on the receiving spouse;
- Both parties’ accumulated or acquired assets and roles in their “wasteful depletion”;
- Both parties’ social security, retirement, or pension benefits
- The paying party’s compliance with the alimony obligations ( Stat. § 61.14(1)(c)(1); (1)(c)(2)).
The receiving spouse’s remarriage is a kind of changed circumstance that can cause the termination of spousal support payments. Besides, the court can reduce or terminate them if it finds that the receiving party has entered into a so-called “supportive relationship” with another partner. To determine this fact, the judge considers the following factors among others:
- The duration of this relationship;
- The extent to which the receiving party and their partner claim aspects of marriage, such as the same last name, common mailing address, etc.;
- The extent to which they have joined their incomes and assets;
- Financial assistance and support they provide to each other or each other’s family members;
- Any joint efforts to obtain assets or increase the value of these assets;
- Their joint contribution to the purchase of real and personal property;
- Any other manifestations of property sharing, financial support, or performance of valuable services between the receiving party and their new partner;
- The paying party’s success or failure in paying the awarded alimony and any possible default of payments ( Stat. § 61.14(1)(b)(2)).
Generally, either spouse can file for termination or modification of alimony ordered by the court after divorce. However, sufficient proof of the changed circumstances must be presented to the judge. The paying party must be able to prove that their paying ability has reduced or that the receiving party’s financial situation has changed for the better.
In their turn, the receiving party must be ready to provide evidence that they still need the alimony to maintain a decent standard of living. The court studies every case in detail to make the final decision. While every situation is unique, you can trace most examples of Florida alimony modification in case law.