Alimony is an allowance that one spouse pays to the other for maintenance and support during separation, divorce proceedings, or after divorce. Alimony awards have changed drastically in the last thirty years, as our society has moved from a norm of one-income households to the general expectation that both spouses are working and financially contributing during the marriage. Although there have been changes, every marriage is different, and the courts still have significant discretion in determining awards. Whether you are seeking to minimize or maximize an alimony award, the presentation of the facts of your case is very important – both in negotiation and litigation.
In Florida, there are 5 different types of alimony: alimony pendente lite, bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent.
Alimony pendente lite is also known as suit money, and can be requested by either party during a divorce. This temporary award helps the recipient maintain their existing living arrangements and sometimes to even pay for the attorney who will represent them in the divorce. A person who makes significantly less than their spouse, who has been a homemaker or has been otherwise dependent on their spouse CAN still pursue a divorce, and be represented on equal footing with the wage-earner, by seeking this form of temporary support.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is a short-term award designed to help the recipient transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony payments may not last more than 2 years and are non-modifiable. This form of alimony terminates upon the death or remarriage of the parties.
Rehabilitative alimony is also a short term award. It is designed to help the recipient obtain the education or work experience necessary to support themselves in the future. This award is limited in time and comes along with an education or training plan. The alimony amount is modifiable if there is a substantial change in circumstances for either party. This form of alimony terminates upon the death of either party, remarriage of the recipient, or if the recipient fails to follow the plan.
Durational alimony is awarded where permanent alimony is not appropriate. This is generally for short term marriages (less than 7 years) to moderate term marriages (between 7 and 17 years). Durational alimony is awarded for a set period of time not to exceed the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony is awarded when the recipient is unable to financially support themselves. This is generally more appropriate for long term marriages, exceeding 17 years. It may also be awarded in moderate-term marriages where one spouse has a clear need for the money, and the other spouse has a demonstrated ability to pay. Permanent alimony is only available in short-term marriages where there are exceptional circumstances, which the court must document in written findings.
How is alimony determined?
The court primarily examines the recipient’s need and the payor’s ability to pay. The court will also consider certain factors as they apply to each spouse, including:
- Health: physical/mental/emotional
- Earnings and earning capacity
- Periods of unemployment
- Whether either party has been primary caretaker of the children
- The age of the children
- The assets of the parties.
The court will also look at marital misconduct such as infidelity, dissipation of marital assets or abuse. These variety of factors make it very important to be deliberate in how you tell the story of your marriage.
The attorneys at the Devolder Law Firm can help you identify the legally important facts within your marital history, and will work to achieve an alimony award that favors your goals. We begin by listening. Next, we ask questions to make sure we have all the information we need to understand and tell your story. We will discuss best and worst case scenarios, and you will choose how to move forward. Most importantly, we are on your side. We want our clients to know that they while they get our honest advice within our office, and we may seek to manage their expectations within those walls, they will receive the most zealous representation in putting forward their positions in negotiations and litigation. We think of every client like a family member that needs our help and protection.
If you choose to work with your spouse collaboratively or in mediation, we are also capable of operating effectively in negotiations that seek to maximize peace. In many divorces, both parties can win by focusing on satisfying one another’s primary interests rather than each party seeking to maximize all their legal rights. This type of negotiation requires a different kind of storytelling – focused on interests rather than rights – and is one that not every lawyer is accustomed to. More than just litigators, the attorneys at the Devolder Law Firm are skilled in finding creative solutions that protect and promote the legitimate interests of both sides when using alternative forms of dispute resolution.