Battling for Alimony: How Courts Decide Who Pays
One of the realities of divorce is that the majority of former spouses will not be able to enjoy the same standard of living they experienced while married. Going from two incomes to one, or having to supplement the finances of two households, will have a significant impact on a person’s financial resources. Worrying about meeting financial obligations once single is a common concern, and is especially prevalent if person is un- or under-employed in order to be more available to provide childcare or run the household. Though, even individuals with steady employment can face substantial obstacles to their financial health if the other spouse earned substantially more. When there is a question of providing for one’s needs, a party in a divorce can ask the court to award alimony, or spousal support. People who seek alimony are often looked at askance by others who assume greed or retaliation to be the sole motivation for such a demand. Further, the other spouse often challenges the need for support, which can lead to contentious litigation over the issue. A well-known pastor in St. Petersburg is currently sparring with his wife over alimony in their divorce, with each side claiming the other ought to pay. Unlike child support, alimony is not a right, and unless the parties agree, a court must find a compelling reason to award it. A look at how courts assess demands for alimony, and the types of alimony available in Florida, will be explored below.
How Courts Approach Alimony Requests
Florida law directs judges to evaluate a list of factors to decide if alimony is appropriate. However, before that analysis can even begin, the court must first determine if the party requesting alimony has a need for it, and if the other party has the ability to pay. Thus, the court will take a good look at the income and expenses of both parties as a preliminary matter before deciding whether to grant support. Assuming this first condition is satisfied, the court will then examine the following factors:
- how long the parties were married;
- the standard of living during the marriage;
- the age and physical and emotional health of each party;
- each party’s financial resources, including marital assets and liabilities;
- the earning capacities of each party, and whether one spouse will require additional education/training to find sufficient employment;
- the contribution of each party to the marriage, including childcare and career building assistance;
- how much responsibility each party will have for their minor children; and
- all sources of income for each party, including investments.
A court can award alimony in one lump-sum or as periodic payments during the pendency of the divorce, as a temporary measure or as a final determination once the divorce is concluded.
Types of Alimony Awards
Florida has four types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, durational, rehabilitative and permanent. A court has wide discretion to determine this issue, so knowing the likely outcome is frequently difficult. Bridge-the-gap alimony can last for up to two years, and is intended to assist a party with transitioning from married to single. Rehabilitative alimony is given to allow a party time to obtain the training or education needed to become self-supporting, and must be accompanied by a plan outlining the type of training/education needed, and how it will help him/her gain employment. Durational alimony is awarded when permanent alimony is not appropriate, but some financial assistance is justified, and lasts for a set number of years based upon the length of the marriage. Finally, permanent alimony is awarded when a party is unable to provide for his/her own financial needs and requires ongoing financial assistance, usually due to age or disability.
Contact a Florida Divorce Attorney
Divorce is hard on many levels, and finances are especially vulnerable during this transition. Alimony depends upon the unique circumstances of each case, and you need an experienced family law attorney to help you understand how divorce will affect your financial well-being. Joyce A. Julian, P.A. represents divorce clients in the Fort Lauderdale area, and is available to guide you through this process. Call the office today for a free consultation.