Many couples believe that alimony is simply a payment made by one spouse to another. In fact, there are typically six types of alimony/spousal support in Florida. However, a couple can create an alimony arrangement during their pre-suit pro-se divorce mediation that does not fit any of these specifics. One of the important factors in mediation is the ability to tailor a plan that works best for you as opposed to having a judge force you into a pre-determined slot without your ability to provide input. Here are the six most common arrangements:
- Temporary Alimony is used during the process of divorce so that the receiving spouse can pay his/her expenses until the final dissolution.
- Rehabilitative Alimony is used during a specific time period so that the receiving spouse can obtain training, education, or job skills and so become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded so that the receiving spouse can establish the capacity for self-support through either the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials. Before a judge awards rehabilitative alimony there must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan. An award of rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated upon a substantial change in circumstances, noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or completion of the rehabilitative plan.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony is used for a limited period in order to assist the receiving spouse with legitimate, identifiable short term needs as s/he makes the transition from being married to being single. (For instance, a 63 year old woman who will be eligible for Medicare when she turns 65 may need bridge-the-gap alimony to pay her health insurance premiums during the next two years.) An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony, is non-modifiable as to both the amount and duration, and may not exceed 2 years.
- Permanent Periodic Alimony is used to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage for the spouse who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her life needs and necessities following the dissolution of the marriage. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of long duration, following a marriage of moderate duration if such an award is appropriate upon consideration of certain factors (see (a) through (j) above), or following a marriage of short duration if there are exceptional circumstances. An award of permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship in accordance with Section 61.14 of the Florida Statutes.
- Lump Sum Alimony is used to give the receiving spouse a one-time payment.
- Durational Alimony is used to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration. Durational alimony is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the receiving party. The amount of an award of durational alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances. However, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes (a) allows for an award of more than one type of alimony; (b) classifies short-term (up to 7 years), moderate-term (7 to 17 years), and long-term marriages (over 17 years), and (c) describes the factors a judge should consider in awarding alimony. These factors include:
(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
(d) The financial resources of each party, including the non-marital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage – including services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award.
(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments.
(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
Once alimony has been ordered, it may (or may not) be modifiable later on. When discussing alimony, divorcing couples should discuss whether or not this alimony will be modifiable as to the duration (length of time) and/or as to the amount, and what circumstances would warrant a modification.
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