Divorce in Florida: How Do I Know What Alimony Payments Will Be?

Planning for Alimony Payments

Once you’ve decided that your marriage is over, questions often move to the logistical. First and foremost is often:Am I entitled to alimony? How much will alimony payments be? And how long will they last?

These questions impact both spouses. If you are paying alimony, you want to be able to plan for how much, and how long you will be paying your former spouse. Likewise, if you receive alimony, you will want to know how much those payments will likely be, and how long you will be receiving them. At Jody L. Fisher Law, I understand that people on both sides of a divorce have questions about alimony, and I’m here to help.

Determining the Amount and Duration of Alimony Payments

Unfortunately, at least from a planning standpoint, Florida judges do not apply a strict formula to determine alimony. Rather, Florida Domestic Relations Judges make alimony determinations based on each individual situation, following guidelines set by Florida statute.

Florida Statute §61.08 includes the following factors that courts consider when determining alimony payments:

  • Standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Length of the marriage;
  • Age and physical and emotional condition of each spouse;
  • Financial resources of each spouse, including marital and non-marital marital assets and liabilities distributed to each party;
  • If applicable, the time necessary for either spouse to acquire sufficient education or training to find appropriate employment;
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, such as homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party;
  • All sources of income to either party;
  • Any other factor to do equity and justice between the parties.

Adultery is not usually considered, unless the adultery caused economic harm.

Types and Duration of Alimony in Florida

Alimony is not awarded to punish one spouse or the other; rather, it is simply a recognition that one spouse may have more resources or skills than the other. Alimony is intended to level the playing field, so that the spouse with greater resources supports the other spouse until that person can support him or herself. For many divorcing people, this support can be critical.

In determining alimony payments, the length of the marriage is often the most critical factor. Alimony payments generally will not last longer than the duration of the marriage. Thus, for a 2 year marriage, for example, alimony payments will seldom last more than 2 years.

Florida groups marriage lengths into three categories:

  • Short-term – the couple was married less than 7 years
  • Moderate-term – the marriage lasted more than 7 but less than 17 years; and
  • Long-term – a marriage of more than 17 years

Florida alimony awards can be divided into five different types:

  • Temporary alimony may be awarded during divorce proceedings, and will terminate automatically when the divorce is finalized. This type of alimony is also referred to as alimony pendent lite, and is often replaced by another, longer-term alimony payment.
  • Durational alimony is often awarded for a short- or moderate-term marriage when other types of alimony are not a good fit. Durational alimony is often awarded over a pre-determined period of time that will not exceed the length of the marriage. Either spouse can seek to change durational alimony if there is a significant change in either party’s circumstances.
  • Permanent alimony is most often granted for moderate- and long-term marriages, and may be awarded to a spouse who does not have the ability to attain the lifestyle set during the marriage. Permanent alimony can be modified if there is a significant change in circumstances for either former-spouse, or if the spouse receiving alimony enters into a relationship where he or she receives financial support from a non-relative who begins living with them.
  • Rehabilitative alimony is intended to get a former-spouse to a place of financial stability where he or she can take care of his or her own expenses, usually by seeking additional training or education. The Court usually includes a plan for the spouse to achieve self-sufficiency. If the spouse receiving alimony deviates significantly from the plan, the parties can petition for a modification.
  • Finally, Bridge-the gap alimony is transitional, helping a spouse go from being married to being single, allocating funds necessary for foreseeable and identifiable bills associated with starting single life.

Alimony may be ordered as a lump sum payment, monthly payments, or a combination of the two. Except for rehabilitative alimony, alimony payments terminate when the receiving spouse re-marries, or when one of the spouses dies.

Alimony payments are typically withheld from a paycheck, but they can also be paid directly to Support Enforcement. Failure to pay alimony can result in a suspension of driving privileges, although a “work permit” is often granted.

Modifying Alimony Payments

Once a court orders alimony to be paid, awards can and will be changed as the circumstances of the former spouses evolve. However, if the original divorce decree did not include alimony payments, a divorcing party cannot seek a modification to alimony. Therefore, many divorce orders include nominal alimony payments, such as $1 a month, which can be changed if the needs of the former spouses change.

Either spouse can request a change to alimony payments if they can demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances for at least one of the spouses. The spouse wishing to alter alimony payments begins by filing a Supplemental Petition for Alimony, which is a standardized form with questions about how you want order modified. To be successful, the change in circumstances must be one that was not anticipated at the time the original award was made, and one that is likely to continue.

In deciding whether to modify alimony payments, the court will consider:

  • A substantial raise or an involuntary decrease in pay;
  • A change in benefits (i.e., a spouse who starts a job with health benefits where that spouse did not have health benefits before);
  • A serious long-term illness;
  • Remarriage of the payee spouse; or
  • Voluntary changes of circumstance that are sound and well-reasoned decisions;
  • A spouse who voluntarily and unreasonably quits his or her job or is fired without good cause (i.e., a spouse who fails to show up at work without reason and is fired as a result cannot obtain a reduction in alimony because of the loss of job); or
  • Expenses associated with a second marriage;

There are likewise factors that will not be considered as a substantial changes of circumstance, such as:

  • A spouse who voluntarily and unreasonably quits his or her job or is fired without good cause (i.e., a spouse who fails to show up at work without reason and is fired as a result cannot obtain a reduction in alimony because of the loss of job); or
  • Expenses associated with a second marriage;

Spouses may also agree to modify alimony payments; however, the parties should still seek court approval, as the court will oversee the modification to make sure one spouse is not being taken advantage of.

Recent Proposed Change to Florida Alimony Statutes

Florida legislators recently proposed changes to alimony statutes that would have created a formula based on length of marriage and combined income of both spouses. This proposal was ultimately vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott because it contained a contentious child custody component which would have started with the premise that a child should split time equally between parents, rather than putting the child’s needs first.

If you have questions about divorce, or are already divorced but need to modify a divorce agreement, call Leesburg alimony attorney Jody L. Fisher at (352) 503-4111, or complete our online information form. I work with husbands and wives throughout central Florida.

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