The purpose of alimony (sometimes known as spousal support or maintenance) is to provide financial assistance for a spouse during or after the divorce—or both. Even if you and your spouse hope to agree on the issue (as part of a divorce settlement agreement), you should understand how alimony works in Florida and how a judge is likely to rule if you ultimately go to trial in your divorce.
There are four different types of alimony in Florida:
Note that Florida no longer allows judges to award permanent alimony. The state eliminated what was known as "permanent periodic alimony" when it revamped its alimony laws in July 2023.
Any spouses (regardless of gender) who are requesting alimony must first prove that:
After finding that there's both need and ability to pay, the judge will then choose which type of type of alimony to award. When making that decision, Florida judges must consider all of the factors that would lead to a fair result, including:
Florida judges aren't limited to awarding only one type of alimony in any particular case. They can mix-and-match in a way that's fair to both spouses, including ordering a lump-sum alimony payment, periodic payments, or a mix of both. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08 (2023).)
As a general rule, judges in Florida will set the amount of alimony based on the recipient spouse's demonstrated need (including the costs for gaining the training, education, and credentials to become self-supporting) and the other spouse's ability to pay.
Beyond that, however, Florida law has specific rules related to the amount of alimony:
(Fla. Stat. § 61.08 (2023).)
Florida law sets different limits on the duration of support payments, depending on the type of alimony:
Temporary alimony will end once the divorce is final, unless the judge finds there's a good reason for ending it sooner. (Fla. Stat. § 61.14(11) (2023).)
Under Florida law, bridge-the-gap alimony may not last for more than two years. It will end before then if either spouse dies or the spouse receiving support remarries. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(6) (2023).)
Florida law sets an absolute maximum of five years for rehabilitative alimony. Short of that cap, the judge will award payments for a set amount of time, depending on the specifics of the rehabilitative plan that the recipient must follow to acquire the skills, education, training, or experience needed to become self-supporting. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(7) (2023).)
Florida law sets a cap on how long durational alimony can last, depending on the length of the marriage. In general, the payments may not last longer than:
A judge may extend the length of durational alimony beyond those percentages—but only when it's necessary because of exceptional circumstances. Before making that decision, the judge must consider all of the same factors that go into a standard alimony award (discussed above), as well as:
Also, as with bridge-the-gap alimony, durational alimony ends when either spouse dies or the recipient remarries. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(8)(b) (2023).)
Here again, Florida's rules for modifying alimony depend on the type of award:
As mentioned above, judges may modify awards for temporary alimony until the divorce is final, whenever there's a good reason for the change. (Fla. Stat. § 61.14(11) (2023).)
Florida law prohibits any modification of bridge-the-gap alimony, either in the amount or the duration of the payments. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(6) (2023).)
Florida judges may modify the amount of rehabilitative alimony or end payments before they're set to expire if the spouse requesting the change shows that:
Judges may also modify the amount of durational alimony (or end the payments before they're set to expire) if there's been a substantial change in circumstances. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(7), (8) (2023).)
Typical examples of changed circumstances include a spouse's:
As part of the 2023 changes to Florida's alimony laws, judges now must reduce or end alimony awards if the paying spouse proves that the recipient has a "supportive relationship" with someone who isn't related by blood or marriage—or had such a relationship in the previous year.
The law spells out a long list of factors that judges will consider when deciding whether the supportive relationship exists, including:
(Fla. Stat. § 61.14(1)(b) (2023).)
Florida law also allows (but doesn't require) judges to reduce or terminate alimony payments if the paying spouse:
Even if the paying spouse meets those requirements, the recipient may then try to prove that alimony shouldn't be ended or reduced. Here again, the law requires the judge to consider a number of factors when deciding whether that's the case, including the motivation for the retirement, the recipient's needs, and any retirement benefits that they'll both receive. (Fla. Stat. § 61.14(1)(c) (2023).)
It's become increasingly common for judges to order alimony payments to be made through income withholding. With this method, the paying spouse's employer holds back the alimony amount from the spouse's pay and makes the alimony payment on the spouse's behalf, usually through the State Disbursement Unit. Florida law requires judges to issue an income withholding order when they're ordering alimony (except temporary alimony). (Fla. Stat. § 61.1301(1)(a) (2023).)
Note, however, that this requirement probably won't apply when the couple signed a settlement agreement that provided for direct alimony payments to the recipient.
If it's warranted because of special circumstances, the judge may order the spouse who's paying alimony to have a life insurance policy, a bond, or another method of securing future support payments. The judge may apportion the costs of the insurance or bond to either or both spouses, based on their ability to pay. (Fla. Stat. § 61.08(4) (2023).)
Without that kind of security, when a spouse is behind with alimony payments or simply refuses to pay, the recipient spouse may have to go back to court to ask a judge to enforce the alimony order.
If your divorce was final before 2019, the paying spouse may continue to deduct alimony payments for purposes of federal income taxes, and the recipient spouse must report those payments as income. However, for all couples who divorced in 2019 and beyond, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated any tax deduction or income reporting requirements for alimony. That means the Internal Revenue Service won't count spousal support payments as income for the recipient, and the paying spouse won't get the deduction.
The easiest way to avoid alimony is to reach an agreement with your spouse that neither of you will pay or receive alimony. You're most likely to get this kind of agreement when both of you have enough assets and earning power to meet your needs.
Other than that scenario, you'll be able to avoid paying spousal support only if you can convince a judge that your spouse doesn't need it or you can't afford to pay. If you hope to do that, you should speak with an experienced family lawyer who can evaluate your chances and help you gather the kind of evidence you'll need to prove your case. The same is true if you're on the other side of equation and hope to get an alimony award that your spouse is resisting.
But don't be tempted to try to avoid alimony by purposefully reducing your income—whether by quitting your job, changing to a lower-paying job, working part time when you could be working full time, or working under the table. A judge will likely see through these efforts and "impute" income to you, ordering alimony based on what you were previously earning or should be earning, considering things like your employment history, education, and skills. This tactic could also taint your credibility, which could come back to haunt you if your case goes to trial.