The purpose of alimony is to provide financial assistance to the economically weaker spouse. In order to be entitled to alimony, there has to be a legal marriage, as Florida does not recognize common law marriage; there has to be a need for assistance on the part of the requesting spouse; and the other spouse has to have an ability to pay the alimony. This is typically referred to as "need and ability to pay."
(For a thorough understanding of what alimony (spousal support) is, how it works, who gets it and more, take a look at DivorceNet's section on Alimony & Spousal Support).
How is Alimony Determined?
Unlike child support, there is no mathematical formula to calculate alimony. The amount and type of alimony is determined by your individual situation, is fact sensitive, and often depends on the judge hearing your case – one judge’s order may drastically differ from another judge’s order. Although alimony is difficult to predict, there are guidelines that the court must follow in determining whether to award alimony, and how much alimony to award.
Florida Statute § 61.08 provides that in determining alimony, the court shall consider all relevant economic factors, including but not limited to:
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The length of the marriage;
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party;
- The financial resources of each party, the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each party;
- If applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment;
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, including but not limited to services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
- All sources of income to either party;
- Any other factor to do equity and justice between the parties. 1
(To learn more, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Florida).
Types of Alimony
Permanent Periodic Alimony
Length of marriage and a disparity in income are the main factors that a court will consider in awarding permanent alimony. Permanent alimony continues until the death of either party and/or the remarriage of the recipient. Recent changes in law allow for a modification or termination where the recipient spouse is cohabitating in a financially supportive relationship. If the marriage is less than 7 years, it is considered a short-term marriage and alimony is unlikely unless there are unusual circumstances such as poor health and/or disability of the spouse preventing him/her from obtaining employment. Permanent alimony is typically awarded in a marriage of 15 years or more where there is a disparity in income. Marriages between 7 and 15 years can go either way, depending upon the facts of each case.
Lump Sum Alimony
Alimony paid in a lump sum of money, typically when ongoing monthly payments are not appropriate or practical.
Alimony paid over a definitive time period to allow a spouse the opportunity to become self supporting by obtaining the necessary education and training to gain new employment skills. This can include vocational school or college. An individual may be awarded lump sum or permanent alimony along with rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony may be awarded in a short-term marriage where one spouse has stayed home to take care of the children and needs education or training to re-enter the work force.
Bridge the Gap Alimony
Short-term alimony of a few months to a couple of years, designed to assist a person to transition from being married to single. A spouse may need time to get a job or money to establish a new residence. May be given in a short-term marriage where there is a disparity in income.
Alimony awarded during the pendency of the divorce.