How Do Florida Courts Determine Alimony Awards?

Divorce brings a host of changes to a person's life, not the least of which is a new set of financial circumstances. In some cases, people may have an obligation to assist their ex-spouses financially after divorce. In 2010, Florida's alimony guidelines changed and Florida residents should be aware of the factors the court considers when deciding whether to award alimony and what type to award.

Types of Alimony in Florida

The Florida alimony guidelines that went into effect July 10, 2010 detail four types of alimony awards:

  • "Bridge-the-gap": A judge awards "bridge-the-gap" alimony to aid one spouse with the "legitimate identifiable needs" that arise when making the transition from married to single. This type of alimony cannot last for more than two years.
  • Rehabilitative: A judge awards rehabilitative alimony to a spouse when he or she needs assistance developing or updating skills in order to enter the workforce and become self-supporting. A rehabilitation plan describing how the spouse plans to achieve self-sufficiency accompanies such awards.
  • Durational: Durational alimony lasts for a set period of time. A judge awards durational alimony in circumstances when permanent alimony is inappropriate. The duration may not exceed the length of the marriage
  • Permanent: Permanent alimony lasts until the death of either spouse or until the recipient remarries.

Before a judge may award alimony in a dissolution of marriage, he or she must make a specific finding that one spouse has a financial need and the other spouse has the ability to pay. After making such a determination, a judge will choose which type is most appropriate. The court may choose to award a combination of different types of alimony.

Factors in Florida Alimony Awards

When determining the type and amount of alimony a person receives, a judge considers several factors, including:

  • Length of the marriage: Judges are more likely to award permanent alimony in long-term or moderate-term marriages.
  • Standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage: If a couple had a much higher standard of living while married than one spouse would be able to maintain alone, a judge may award alimony to equalize the parties' standards of living.
  • Each party's age and physical condition: If one spouse is too old or sick to work, a judge may award alimony to support that spouse.
  • Each party's earning capacity and how long it would take either one to find employment: If one spouse has significantly higher earning capability, a judge may award alimony, or may award rehabilitative alimony to give a spouse time to increase earning potential.
  • Each party's contribution to the marriage: A judge looks at material contributions as well as homemaking and child-rearing activities.
  • All sources of income available to each party: A judge considers income from sources beyond employment, such as investments, when making alimony decisions.
  • Responsibilities for minor children from the marriage: A judge may give a spouse who cares for children alimony so that he or she only needs to work part-time.
  • Tax implications of an alimony award: A judge may consider how an alimony award will impact each spouse's tax obligations.
  • Any other factors the court finds relevant: A judge is not limited to the factors enumerated in the statute and may consider any other information if equity demands it. The statute specifically notes that the court may consider whether either spouse committed adultery when awarding alimony.
Talk to a Lawyer

Alimony awards are based on the specific facts of each couple's marriage and can vary widely from one case to the next. If you have questions about alimony, speak with a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.