Alimony is financial support made to a spouse during and after a divorce. This is separate from any child support that might need to be paid due to child custody issues. Under state law, spouses have a duty to financially support each other, and alimony acknowledges that this duty can continue even after a divorce or legal separation.
How Do You Qualify for Alimony?
Alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis in Florida, and there is not a set formula used to calculate awards. Instead, the courts evaluate a series of factors:
- Your financial resources, including joint and separate property,
- The length of the marriage,
- Each spouse’s age and health,
- Each spouse’s earning capacity, occupation, and employability,
- The time and cost of education and training you need to find work,
- Your standard of living while married,
- Your contribution to the marriage (including household responsibilities and child care), and
- Each spouse’s ongoing responsibilities for child care.
Additionally, the courts can take adultery into account, if the adultery financially disadvantaged the other spouse.
How Much Alimony Can You Receive in Florida?
Florida does not have a limit or cap on alimony. Instead, the courts must weigh the factors discussed above and determine how much support is appropriate. Under certain circumstances, alimony awards can be millions of dollars (but are typically more modest). While legislation has repeatedly been proposed that would limit or reform Florida alimony, none of these bills have been successful thus far.
How Long Does Alimony Last in Florida?
There are five types of alimony in Florida:
- Temporary (or “pendente lite”): paid while a divorce is pending,
- “Bridge the gap” paid for a maximum of two years (for example, while you sell marital assets),
- Rehabilitative: paid while you receive additional education or job training pursuant to a rehabilitation plan,
- Durational: paid for a set period of time (up the length of your marriage), and
- Permanent: ongoing, lifetime alimony payments.
The state does set limits on permanent alimony. If you were married for 17 years or more, the court can award permanent alimony (if appropriate). Shorter marriages (7-17 years) qualify for permanent alimony only if there is clear and convincing evidence of need. (However, you may be eligible for durational alimony.) Finally, very short marriages (less than seven years) are rarely eligible for permanent or durational alimony.
How Do You Petition for Alimony?
Again, alimony can be awarded even before a divorce is finalized. If you plan to file a motion for alimony, seriously consider hiring a lawyer before you file for divorce. Florida does not have a standardized form for alimony requests, so each motion must be drafted from scratch. It also can be difficult for the average person to calculate and negotiate alimony awards.
Additionally, an increasing number of couples are negotiating alimony in their settlement agreement. If you and your spouse can agree to a fair alimony amount, you can resolve this issue without the court’s involvement. Again, a lawyer can help you with these negotiations.
Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?
Petitioning or modifying an alimony award can be contentious and complicated. A Florida family lawyer can help you file a motion with the court, calculate a fair alimony award, and negotiate with your spouse.