Spousal support, also known as alimony, and in some states, spousal maintenance, is ordered in legal separation and divorce cases and requires one spouse to make payments to the other spouse. These payments are usually paid on a monthly basis and begin after the finalization of the divorce or separation.
The amount of the spousal support payments are usually included in the divorce decree. They may also, however, be ordered in a separate order outside of a legal proceeding.
Spousal support is provided to meet the basic needs to the receiving spouse, which may include:
- Rent or a mortgage; and
- Other necessary living expenses.
In the majority of cases, unnecessary expenditures and luxury items are not considered when a court decides the amount necessary for spousal maintenance.
How Long Does Spousal Maintenance Last?
How long spousal maintenance lasts depends on the individual case and the needs capabilities of each spouse. Spousal maintenance can be either temporary or indefinite, or ongoing until it is terminated by the court.
Most jurisdictions issue a temporary award of spousal support because many individuals experience major life changes that may alter their spousal support needs. In addition, a spouse may modify the spousal support order and have its requirements modified.
A spousal support order may also be terminated for a number of reasons. If the paying spouse is requesting termination of support, they must provide a reason for their request.
How Does the Court Determine Whether to Grant Spousal Support?
The court examines many factors when determining whether or not to grant spousal support. These include:
- The spouse’s ability to support themself;
- The amount of time they will need to acquire a job or get training in order to obtain employment;
- The standard of living that the spouses enjoyed during their marriage;
- The length of their marriage;
- The circumstances which lead to the separation or divorce;
- The age of each of the spouses;
- The physical and mental conditions of the spouses;
- The ability of paying spouse to support themselves while making the required payments and;
- Other financial responsibilities and resources of each of the spouses, including:
- any previous awards of child support;
- the financial obligations of each party;
- the rights of each of the spouses to receive retirement benefits; and
- taxability or non-taxability of income.
Spousal support can be paid in a lump sum or on a temporary or permanent basis. The court will consider the circumstances of each of the spouses when determining how long spousal support should be ordered.
Who Qualifies for Spousal Support?
As noted above, whether or not spousal support is ordered will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Each case will be different in terms of the analysis of spousal support.
It is common for spousal support only to be ordered in cases where the marriage lasted over 5 years. In order to determine if a spouse qualifies for spousal support the court will examine factors that include:
- The earning capacity of the spouses;
- The assets and property of each spouse;
- If one spouse has significant debt;
- Whether the spouses operated a shared business;
- The contribution of each spouse to the relationship, for example, if one spouse was a homemaker, or in terms of joint careers or education;
- Whether the spouses have spousal support provisions in a prenuptial agreement; and
- Various other factors, including the mental and physical health conditions of the spouses.
Can Spousal Support be Modified?
Yes, spousal support may be modified in certain cases. Spousal support orders are issued by a court and are legally enforceable.
However, if there are unique or special circumstances that appear at a later time, a spousal support order may be modified. For example, if the receiving spouse begins cohabiting with another partner that financially supports them. A second example may occur when the paying spouse experiences an extreme hardship.
When can Spousal Maintenance be Terminated?
Spousal support may be terminated when:
- The receiving spouse becomes financially independent and no longer requires spousal support;
- The receiving spouse is cohabitating with a new individual;
- The paying spouse experiences a financial hardship, which must be proven by documentation; or
- The court has deemed it would be unfair or unreasonable for payments to continue.
The termination of spousal support may occur depending on the spouse’s situation. Additionally, spousal support laws vary by state. Supporting evidence for the termination of spousal support may include:
- Financial statements;
- Bank account receipts;
- Work stubs; and
- Any other relevant documentation.
What are Some Restrictions Regarding Spousal Support?
Restrictions regarding spousal support vary state by state. Some states have limits regarding the amount that may be awarded as spousal support.
In recent years, some states have been encouraging financial independence in order to reduce the amount of spousal support when it is not financially feasible for the paying spouse. Additionally, some states have been limiting or denying spousal support if the marriage dissolved due to the receiving spouse.
Courts have also been considering dissolution grounds such adultery, abandonment, and marital misconduct. In certain cases, temporary spousal support is only awarded for the time the receiving spouse would need to gain their financial independence.
How Does Florida Determine Spousal Support?
In many states, there is not a set formula for determining how much the receiving spouse is entitled to for spousal support. This is the case in the state of Florida.
What Types of Spousal Support are Available in Florida?
The state of Florida awards three different types of spousal support. These types are:
Temporary spousal support only lasts while a divorce is pending. This type of support may be necessary when the non-earning spouse needs immediate support following the separation of the spouses. In addition, temporary support may be awarded while the divorce is being resolved.
Rehabilitative spousal support lasts for a specific period of time following the finalization of a divorce. It is provided so that the dependent spouse may receive the training and education they need to reenter the workforce. This type of support typically terminates when the receiving spouse obtains employment.
Permanent spousal support may last indefinitely. It may be ordered in cases where a marriage lasted longer than 10 years. In addition, if a court determines the receiving spouse may not be able to return to work, the court may order permanent support. Some states, however, do not allow permanent spousal support.
What Factors Will the Court Consider in Awarding Spousal Support?
There are several factors a court in Florida will consider when determining whether to grant spousal support and to what extent. These factors may be similar to those in other states and may include:
- Whether a spouse committed adultery and the circumstances surrounding it;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- The length of the marriage;
- The health and age of the spouses;
- The financial resources of each spouse;
- The time that will be required to either spouse to obtain education or training that will allow them to obtain suitable employment; and
- Any source of income that is available to each spouse.
A Florida court also has the discretion to consider any other relevant factor when awarding spousal support.
Should I Contact a Lawyer?
It is important to have the help of an experienced family lawyer for any spousal support issues you may face. A legal separation and divorce can be difficult situations. Spousal support can make the matter more complicated.
If you have any concerns regarding your separation or divorce proceedings, including spousal support issues, a lawyer is your best option for help. If you need support after a separation or divorce in order to get back on your feet, your lawyer can assist you in getting the support you need.
If you are facing being required to make payments to a former spouse, your attorney can assist you in ensuring the payments are fair. Your attorney can also assist you in gathering evidence and presenting a termination petition to the court, if necessary.