Florida Family Law: Alimony/Spousal Support

Alimony (also known as spousal support) is a tool that the court can use to make sure each spouse is treated fairly upon divorce.

Florida family law recognizes different types of alimony: including permanent periodic, lump sum, rehabilitative, and bridge-the-gap. The court can also award temporary alimony during the duration of adivorce case. A person may receive more than one type of alimony, depending on the individual facts and circumstances of the marriage.

Temporary alimony may be granted to maintain the status quo during the pendency of a divorce case. For example, if one spouse functioned as a traditional homemaker and did not earn income outside the home and the other spouse paid the marital bills from income earned outside the home, the working spouse can be required to continue to pay the marital bills until the final disposition of the divorce.

When considering an award of alimony, a Florida court can examine any factor, including the adultery of either spouse, the length of the marriage, and the employment prospects of the spouse who would receive the alimony. Alimony is not the same as child support and is evaluated as an entirely separate matter. In Florida, the alimony issue must be decided before the court establishes child support.

If one spouse needs some help getting on his or her feet, the court may award bridge-the-gap alimony. This alimony is awarded to assist the person in the transition from married life to single life and is generally awarded for two years. For example, if the spouse is having a hard time finding a job or is no longer living in themarital home, a court may award bridge-the-gap alimony to allow that spouse to find a job or appropriate housing.

A court will award permanent periodic alimony, usually on a monthly basis, if one spouse needs to be supported indefinitely. Generally, the award of permanent periodic alimony in Florida turns on the duration of the marriage, although other factors are also applicable. Permanent periodic alimony usually lasts until the death of either spouse or if the spouse receiving the payments remarries. Florida law recently changed to allow a reduction/cessation in permanent periodic alimony in the event the recipient spouse is cohabiting with someone who financially supports them.

A spouse might request rehabilitative alimony if that person requires the time to acquire new skills or resume an educational/career track that was interrupted during the marriage. Rehabilitative alimony is specifically designed to further the receiver's career options and requires a specific plan toward that goal.

Lump sum alimony is one large payment paid directly from the distribution of the marital assets. It may consist of money, the marital home, a combination of the two, or other assets. A court might opt for lump sum alimony instead of permanent periodic alimony if there is extreme hostility between the spouses to the degree that an ongoing arrangement is not practical or in the event that one spouse is ill and is expected to die prematurely.

Traditionally, alimony was only available to women. Nowadays, both men and women can petition the court to award support, although it is still more commonly requested by women who have devoted their energy to raising a family. With more women in the workforce and more women out-earning their husbands, the number of men entitled to alimony is sure to increase.

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