The 4 Types of Alimony, Their Purpose and Duration
By Orlando Alimony Divorce Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
Of all divorce issues, alimony (also known as spousal support) generates the most friction and leads to the most litigation. This observation is based on many years of experience as a family and divorce lawyer in Florida. Most divorcing spouses can usually accept the concept of dividing half of the marital assets and debts, and paying support for the children, but not to their ex-spouse. Nothing puts a spouse in an emotional “battle mode” more than the prospect of continuing to make payments to their ex-spouse for an extended time after the divorce.
The Discretion of the Judges
A divorce may or may not involve alimony, depending on the circumstances of the litigants. Current law (Section 61.08, Florida Statutes) gives judges an uncomfortably large amount of discretion regarding its amount, if any, and its duration.
Unlike with child support, no “guidelines” exist for alimony awards in Florida. In May 2013, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that actually would have established something approaching such guidelines. The proponents of this bill are now weighing their options. Until a new statute is passed, however, spouses must deal with Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes in its present form.
Circumstances Considered In Setting The Amount And Duration
Regardless of the type of spousal support that a trial court awards, in determining its amount, it must first consider the ten enumerated factors contained in Section 61.08(2), Florida Statutes. The Florida District Courts of Appeal have distilled these ten factors into three essential considerations of the circumstances of the of the litigants that affect the amount and duration of any alimony.
- The length of the marriage, with longer marriages resulting in longer periods of paying the alimony,
- the recipient's financial need,
- the obligor’s ability to pay it.
A divorcing spouse must keep in mind that both financial need and ability to pay must be established before any alimony payment is awarded. A family court judge will never award a former spouse a monthly payment amount that exceeds his or her proven monthly need. Also, The Florida District Courts of Appeal have repeatedly declared that alimony is not designed to equalize the post-divorce incomes of the spouses.
Finally, the “standard of living established during the marriage”, while relevant, is not the guiding principle behind fashioning an award for spousal support. Many of my divorce clients (and even a few divorce attorneys working on alimony cases) seemed surprised when I explained these principles to them.
The circumstances of the divorcing spouses that determine the amount and duration of the alimony payments result in the following four types of alimony:
The 4 Types of Alimony
Section 61.08, Florida Statutes, creates these four distinct types of spousal support or alimony, depending on their purpose and duration:
This type of spousal support assists the recipient spouse (obligee) in making the transition from married life to single life. It only addresses the obligee’s identifiable, short-term needs. Bridge-the-gap cannot exceed two years, and neither its amount or duration can be modified.
This variety of alimony provides the recipient spouse with the necessary funds to pay for the development of marketable skills. This typically involves paying for college or vocational courses.
In order to qualify for rehabilitative alimony, potential recipients must present a "specific and defined" plan outlining their proposed initiative. Unlike bridge-the gap, the rehabilitative version can be modified, either (1) through a post-judgment "substantial change in circumstances", (2) because of noncompliance with the plan, or (3) when the recipient completes the plan.
When permanent alimony is inappropriate, a court may order it to be "durational". This provides the obligee with payments for a set period of time (such as five years). The length of time awarded may not exceed the length of the marriage. Furthermore, the amount of the award may be modified upon showing a substantial change in circumstances after the judgment.
A court-orders permanent alimony to spouses that will never be able to meet their needs without assistance. Permanent alimony awards are usually, but not always, reserved for long-term marriages (17 or more years).
Before awarding permanent payments to an ex-spouse, a Florida family court must first determine that no other form of this alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. An award of permanent support terminates upon the death of the paying spouse. It can also be modified if a substantial change in circumstances occurs after the marriage or if the recipient enters into a "supportive relationship" with another person, as defined in Section 61.14 of the Florida Statutes.
How We Can Help You
If you have a dispute over spousal support in your divorce, call me to schedule a consultation on alimony: divorce attorney Eduardo J. Mejias, of AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001. We can represent you in family law cases through mediation, trial and, if necessary, in any appeals to the any of the Florida District Courts of Appeals.
During the consultation we will listen to you and assess how we can help you with a plan to achieve your objectives. The assessment will be realistic and based on the experience of hundreds of family law cases. We will not give you a rosy picture of what we can do for you to entice you to sign up with us. And you will know what our fixed retainer fee will be before you pay or sign any contract.
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These are the ranges of retainer fees charged by AAA Family Law for the type of case mentioned on this page. The actual amount depends on the degree of complexity of the case.
Contested Divorce Up To Mediation: $2,400 to $3,600. (An additional retainer amount is set before a trial if there is a trial. Read Family Lawyer Retainer Fees for the trial attorney retainer fee ranges and the court costs).
Uncontested Divorce: $1,200 to $1,800.
AAA Family Law can represent you from your first hearing, mediation or trial to any appeals to the Florida District Courts of Appeals.
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