Even with the recent changes in Florida's Alimony and Spousal Support laws, Alimony and Spousal Support remain the most undefined area in Family Law. Unlike Child Support, there are no guidelines for Alimony that you can simply plug information into and end up with an amount.
The first thing which must be determined is if there is an entitlement to Alimony. A Party is entitled to Alimony if there is a need and the other Party has the ability to pay (Not very helpful). Despite the real lack of definition, courts have been dealing with Alimony in this manner for years. In real life, what it comes down to is disparity of income. A spouse does not need to make hundreds of thousands of dollars to have the ability to pay alimony. I have seen Alimony ordered in cases where there was as little as a $20,000 a year disparity in income. For certain low income families, a small amount of Alimony can go a long way.
From this point the proper type and amount of Alimony must be determined. The Florida legislature has recently helped us out in that regard by defining what constitutes a long term, moderate term and short term marriage. A short term marriage is now defined as a marriage less than 7 years. Moderate term is 7-17 years and long term is 17 years or greater.
There are several types of Alimony and Spousal Support available in Florida. The most widely known is Permanent Alimony. Permanent Alimony is Alimony payable until the death of either party or until the recipient remarries. There is a presumption of Permanent Alimony in long term marriages, no presumption in moderate term marriages and a requirement of demonstrated extraordinary circumstances in short term marriages.
Rehabilitative Alimony is alimony provided for a set period of time to allow a party to educate themselves to become self supporting.
Bridge the Gap Alimony is a short term form of Alimony not to exceed two years. This is non-modifiable in either length or amount. The purpose of Bridge the Gap Alimony is to allow the financially disadvantaged Party the ability to transition back to living as a single person.
The newest form of Alimony is Durational Alimony. Except in extraordinary circumstances, Durational Alimony shall not exceed the length of the marriage. This catch all form of Alimony is for cases where Permanent Alimony is inappropriate but Alimony is appropriate for a longer time period than Bridge the Gap allows and there is no Rehabilitative plan.
All but Bridge the Gap Alimony can be modified if there is a substantial change in circumstances. A significant unforeseen increase or decrease in one of the Parties' incomes can be a basis to modify the amount of Alimony. Furthermore, retirement at a normal age (65) can be a basis for a modification of Alimony. Public policy demands that people are entitled to retire no different than if they remained married.
Regardless of the length of the marriage, if the Parties have a disparity in incomes, Alimony can be a factor. If Alimony may be an issue in your Divorce, contact Michael D. Fluke, P.A. today.