We know that divorce can be an extremely difficult challenge to face, both practically and emotionally. To add to the emotional stressors that a divorce can trigger, you may find yourself in a drastically different financial situation than your partner. If this is the case, then alimony may be considered to give you and your spouse a more level playing field following the finalization of your divorce. If you have questions about alimony and how it is calculated, our family law attorneys in Koberlein Law Offices can help.
What is Alimony and Why Does it Exist?
Simply put, alimony--otherwise known as spousal support--is a monetary award given by the family court to provide financial support for a spouse for a period of time following the finalization of the parties' divorce. Alimony can be awarded to one spouse for a multitude of reasons, including:
- Providing support for a spouse to enjoy the same standard of living to which he or she became accustomed during the marriage;
- Providing for short-term needs following a divorce, such as finding a place to live or purchasing necessities after a divorce; and
- Allowing a spouse to obtain an education or complete a specialized job training program in order to obtain a higher income to provide for themselves following a divorce.
Alimony also comes in various forms. Depending on the circumstances, a spouse may be awarded one or more of the following types of alimony:
- Temporary alimony, which is awarded to a spouse in the interim period between the filing of divorce proceedings and the finalization of the divorce.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony to help a spouse who is in need of temporary financial assistance to get back on his or her feet in the immediate aftermath of a divorce.
- Rehabilitative alimony, which helps a spouse go back to school or take other measures to advance in his or her career.
- Durational alimony, which provides a spouse with temporary financial support for a set period of time following the divorce.
- Permanent alimony, which is paid by one spouse to another spouse until the family court signs an order terminating payment.
Key Factors for Determining an Award of Alimony
When determining whether to order an award of alimony to a spouse, a Florida family court will take several factors into account. Such factors include:
- The financial positions of both spouses, including all sources of income for each spouse and what property was awarded to each spouse during the divorce.
- The reason for the divorce, including adultery or other wrongdoing by one spouse which led to the ultimate breakdown of the marriage.
- The length of the marriage, as parties likely contributed less to the marriage in a short-term relationship than one that lasted for years or even decades.
- The standard of living during the marriage, as the goal of the family court, is to put each spouse in as close to a standard of living as they had during the marriage.
- Child support obligations of each party, as alimony awards are often increased for the spouse who is the primary caretaker of minor children.
- The age and health of each party, as a spouse who is older or suffers from a physical or mental disability, may not be able to earn a living as easily as a spouse who is young and healthy.
- The contribution of each party to the marriage, as contributing to the care of the home or the raising of the parties' children can result in an increase of alimony to that spouse.
- The earning capacity of each spouse, as these earning capacities may be unequal between spouses.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of factors that a court will consider when determining whether to order an award of alimony to a spouse; other factors can affect alimony as well. In addition, there are certain tax consequences which you may face when receiving or paying alimony, as alimony which is received or paid can be taxed differently based on the form of alimony being received or paid.
Factors that Affect Alimony Awards in Florida
Although a spouse may be awarded alimony by a family court, such an award isn't always set in stone -- several factors can affect how much alimony one receives and can even cause an award of alimony to end. For instance:
- If a spouse is awarded rehabilitative alimony to go back to school or increase his or her earning potential, such alimony can be altered or terminated if the spouse fails to complete school or does not finish educational training.
- If a spouse who is paying alimony suffers a situation where his or her earning potential is severely decreased or otherwise experiences a drastic change in financial circumstances, alimony may be reduced.
- If a spouse who receives alimony finds himself or herself in a much better financial position due to a change in jobs or a raise at work, alimony from the other spouse may be decreased.
- If a spouse who is receiving alimony enters into a "supportive relationship" and lives with a person who helps with financial burdens such as rent and non-financial burdens such as raising children, an award of alimony to that spouse may decrease or even terminate.
- If a spouse who is receiving durational or permanent alimony from an ex-spouse remarries or holds himself or herself out to others as being married, alimony will terminate.
As with an initial award of alimony, there are many other factors which can affect a modification or termination of alimony in Florida. An experienced family law attorney can discuss further implications which could lead to a modification or termination of alimony.
Have Questions About Alimony? We Can Help
Whether you are in a position of having to pay alimony or are in a position to receive it, the law which regulates alimony--along with the many factors that affect alimony -- can be very confusing. If you are facing a divorce in Florida and need assistance with understanding alimony, our family law attorneys can help you navigate the muddy waters surrounding the topic. Contact us to set a consultation to discuss alimony. Fill out an online contact form or call our office in either Lake City at 386-269-9802 or Live Oak at 386-516-2626 or Gainesville at 352-519-4357 today. We receive a lot of satisfaction from providing expert representation and we would be honored to help you by simply answering questions or providing our full services.