Alimony can be one of the most contentious issues in a Florida divorce. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with money for living expenses over and above the money provided by child support. Spousal support differs from child support in that child support is a simple mathematical calculation using guidelines published by the state, where as spousal support is discretionary and requires balancing multiple factors.
Though there is certainly no rule saying so, it is generally seen as rare that spousal support is awarded in marriages that lasted only a few years. It is also rare to see it awarded in cases where the incomes of the parties are close to equal. Alimony is typically reserved for situations where one spouse has been economically dependent on the other for most of a lengthy marriage. Again though, this is not a hard and fast rule and exceptions do exist, especially when one party’s bad behavior was responsible for the dissolution of the marriage.
There is a possibility of rehabilitative alimony for shorter marriages. Rehabilitative support is a means that some courts use when one of the spouses needs some time to transition back into the job market. The court can order modest alimony for a set period of time to allow the other spouse to finish school or get back to work and get on his or her feet.
As we mentioned earlier, there is no formula for determining the amount of spousal support; instead, the decision comes down to the discretion of the trial court judge. Alimony will be granted only on a showing of need by one party together with a corresponding ability to pay by the other. Some of the factors that go into consideration include the standard of living the spouses enjoyed during the marriage; how long the marriage lasted; the age, as well as the physical and emotional condition, of each spouse; each spouse’s resources, including non-marital assets; the time it would take a spouse needing support to get education or training necessary to support him or herself; the contribution each spouse made to the marriage, including homemaking and child care and contributions to the other spouse’s education and career; and all sources of income either spouse has. The court has the option to consider other factors it deems necessary to be fair to both spouses.
Unless there is a specific agreement stating otherwise, alimony is modifiable, though not easily and it is generally not discharge-able in bankruptcy. Changing alimony requires a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. Typically this involves cases where the person paying the support has seen their income decline substantially for reasons not their fault. In such instances, the court can decide to reduce or totally eliminate the spousal support. Alimony stops completely if either party dies, or when the spouse receiving alimony remarries or enters into a supportive relationship.
If you have questions about a divorce proceeding and would like a divorce attorney to assist you in the matter, contact us today by email or by calling at (904) 685-1200.