What Are Your Spousal Support Options in a Divorce?

Many divorcing couples face financial difficulties after they start the process of marriage dissolution. In divorce, spousal support or alimony is one of the options that help one of the parties to maintain comfortable living standards until their income level increases.

The amount and duration of alimony depend on many circumstances. To avoid an unexpected result after the divorce is finalized, you need to familiarize yourself with the conditions of their award and types in advance.

In this article, we will present information about different forms of spousal support in divorce in Florida, their purpose, and duration. In addition, we will discuss factors the judge takes into account when granting alimony and conditions under which its payment can terminate beforehand.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a court-appointed financial assistance that one spouse provides to the other during or after divorce. It is usually paid by the party with a higher income. Spousal support laws may differ by state, but their main goal is to ensure that the indigent spouse can maintain the standard of living they had during their marriage.

If the case is uncontested, you and your spouse can decide the amount of alimony on your own. If there are any disputed issues over divorce terms, the judge may step in to define spousal support for your specific situation.

What is spousal support in a divorce? Spousal support is fixed short- or long-term monthly payments or a one-time compensation.

How does spousal support work? It can be awarded to:

  1. Help financially the spouse who has problems with self-support due to the divorce during the process or after it.
  2. Maintain the party engaged in raising children who cannot work or has insufficient income.
  3. Contribute to obtaining education or skills necessary for employment and increasing the revenue level.

Typically, the judge issues the decision on divorce and spousal support, determining a start and end date for alimony. Sometimes, the amount of financial support can be revised or changed depending on case-specific circumstances.

Who Can Ask for Spousal Support?

Either spouse with a low income and inability to provide for themselves can file a motion with the court, asking for financial support. The judge will definitely check both parties’ solvency to find out if the petitioner really needs assistance and if the other party can ensure it.

The most common reasons for spousal support are:

  1. Financial inability to support oneself.
  2. Insufficient education for employment and earning for a comfortable standard of living.
  3. Taking care of minor children, which does not leave time for a parent to get a job.
  4. Physical or psychological impossibility to become self-supporting.
  5. Limited working capacity due to age.

Different circumstances can affect the court’s agreement or disagreement to grant alimony. They usually award it to the party who has devoted most of their time in marriage to raising children while the other spouse worked. However, it is not the only reason for its appointment.

When deciding who qualifies for spousal support, the judge may take into account the following factors:

  1. Duration of marriage.
  2. State of health of both parties.
  3. Their income level and the amount of joint and separate property.
  4. Availability of permanent employment and education.
  5. Terms of child custody and maintenance after divorce.
  6. Contribution of each spouse to the household, the qualifications of the other party, and the increase in property value.
  7. Standard of living during marriage.
  8. Any other factors the court deems appropriate.

The award of alimony depends on many case-specific conditions. Since some types of it are strictly limited in time, the form of the ordered payments and the ability of the payer to provide them are among the decisive factors regarding their amount and duration. However, the court also pays attention to the behavior of both parties.

How to get spousal support? If you have enough reasons for receiving it, you should prepare and file a petition for dissolution of marriage with the county clerk’s office, stating your request for spousal support. You will need to indicate the reason for it, determine the approximate required amount, and specify its type.

What Are the Different Types of Spousal Support?

Florida laws recognize 4 main types of financial assistance, which differ in their purpose, term of appointment, and the possibility of modification. Spousal support during separation before divorce is usually short-term because its primary goal is to provide help to spouses for a certain preparatory period. Spousal alimony awarded by the court after a long-lasting marriage can be more extended or even lifelong. The grounds for spousal support you indicate in your request to the court will determine the form of alimony you can get.

Here are the basic types of spousal support recognized in Florida:

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony is typically awarded to one of the spouses until the judge issues the final divorce decree. It differs from other types in that it is prescribed before the divorce and not after it.

The court usually grants it to those spouses who need some assistance during the dissolution of the marriage process. The parties can agree on its amount on their own and conclude a settlement agreement. The judge will review and approve it if they consider it fair. If not, they will issue another decision over temporary support.

Such alimony can be checked and adjusted by the court over time.

Bridge-the-Gap Alimony

It can be assigned to a spouse who needs financial support to transition from married to single status and has certain expenses that cannot be covered independently.

This alimony cannot be reviewed, increased, or decreased. The maximum term of its appointment is 2 years. However, it can be terminated earlier if either party dies or the recipient remarries.

Rehabilitative Alimony

This form of financial assistance is intended for those spouses who cannot earn independently after divorce due to a lack of education or work experience. To receive it, the recipient needs to provide a rehabilitative development plan that will be followed to achieve solvency.

These alimony payments are usually temporary. In most cases, they last until the receiving party completes training and/or gets a job and starts earning enough to make their living conditions better. However, their duration cannot exceed 5 years.

The court can review the duration of rehabilitative alimony and terminate it earlier if the plan presented by the receiving party was completed sooner or due to other good reasons. Nevertheless, if the recipient fails to comply with the schedule, the support may be terminated prematurely.

Durational Alimony

Long-term support is only applicable if the requesting party really needs it and the marriage has lasted at least 3 years. Usually, the court awards durational alimony when other types do not correspond to the case.

The amount of this financial assistance can be reviewed and changed according to circumstances, while its duration cannot. The period of durational alimony payments cannot exceed 50% of the marriage length if it lasted up to 10 years, 60% of its length if the spouses lived together from 10 to 20 years, and 75% of a long-term marriage, which is more than 20 years.

Lump-Sum Alimony

It is not considered a separate type of spousal support under Florida law. This form of assistance assumes that one of the parties should pay some amount of alimony determined by the court at once. Lump-sum support is often used when either spouse necessitates a large sum of money to cover their financial needs or contribute to achieving self-sufficiency. In most cases, it is combined with other kinds of assistance, part of which is paid immediately, and the rest is provided in fixed monthly payments.

Since the receiving party gets most of the support immediately, it is likely that its full amount will not be reviewed later. On the one hand, it can be an advantage for the paying party because they do not have to transfer fixed payments to the other spouse every month. On the other hand, a one-time payment can be significant and may worsen the party’s financial situation.

Permanent Alimony

This type of financial support was abolished by the Alimony Reform Bill in June 2023.

Before that, permanent spousal support was usually awarded after a long-term marriage when one of the parties couldn’t work due to poor health or had no possibility of getting an education sufficient for employment due to age or other reasons. Its main goal was to improve the living level of the party who wasn’t able to become self-supporting.

If you were ever granted this assistance, it can still be changed at the judge’s discretion. If the paying spouse gets a more profitable job or inheritance, alimony can be revised and increased. If the spouse providing support retires, loses a job, or starts earning less, its amount may be reduced.

One may receive several forms of spousal support concurrently or consecutively. Even a long-term marriage doesn’t guarantee that you will get any assistance following its dissolution. Everything depends on the circumstances of the case, the income level of the payer and recipient, and the sufficiency of the reasons given.

When Can I Stop Paying Spousal Support?

The divorce decree generally determines the duration of spousal support, but stopping alimony payments can sometimes occur earlier than the stipulated date. If the party receiving financial assistance remarries or one of the parties dies, it is usually terminated.

The court may also terminate alimony payments if the receiving ex-spouse begins cohabitation with a new partner but does not marry. How long does spouse support last in such a situation? If the payer makes a request to the court to stop paying alimony because the recipient is in a relationship similar to marriage and proves it, the judge may approve the claim.

How long do you pay spousal support if none of the above applies to your case? Most likely, you will provide spousal support for as long as the court decides. However, some of its types may be revised and shortened or lengthened according to circumstances. Local legislation also has a great influence on resolving issues over the duration of alimony. There may be other specific conditions for the automatic termination of financial assistance after marriage dissolution.