Alimony is a term most people know from popular culture, but many misconceptions about alimony abound. This is partly due to the fact that alimony laws are set by state law and can vary widely from state to state. Furthermore, judges have wide discretion in how they set the amount and duration of alimony, and will consider a number of factors in doing so, thus what you may have heard secondhand from a friend or family member's divorce matter may have little relevance to your own divorce. One of the main questions people have regarding alimony in Florida - whether they believe they will be on the receiving end or the paying end of it - is how long alimony will last.
THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF ALIMONY MAY BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE DURATION
First off, it should be said that the duration of alimony is probably a good deal less important than the total amount of alimony to be paid. Judges will set both a duration and a periodic amount to be paid, and so both should be considered. After all, 10 years of alimony at $100 a month is only $12,000 in total, whereas 2 years of alimony at $3,000 a month is $72,000 in total.
Also note that judges may order that alimony be paid in one lump sum.
THE FOUR TYPES OF ALIMONY THAT CAN BE ORDERED
Under Florida law, there are four specific types of alimony that a judge can order a spouse to pay the other spouse:
- Bridge-the-gap alimony, which is designed to provide a relatively short assistance to the receiving spouse, and which may not exceed two years;
- Rehabilitative alimony, which is specifically designed to give one spouse assistance in becoming self-sustaining, such as through paying for education or job training;
- Durational alimony, which is awarded to a spouse for economic assistance for a set period of time after the marriage, not to exceed the length of the marriage; and
- Permanent alimony, which is awarded to a spouse for an indefinite period of time (i.e., until death or remarriage), where the receiving spouse lacks the ability to be self-sustaining.
DETERMINING DURATION IN NON-PERMANENT ALIMONY
When a judge orders a non-permanent form of alimony (bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, or durational), there will be a set period of time for which the alimony should be paid. The judge will look at a variety of factors in setting the duration, but probably the most important factor is how long the parties were married, with a shorter marriage generally meaning a shorter duration of alimony.
Other factors the court will consider in setting duration include:
- The standard of living in the marriage (a higher standard of living generally means higher alimony)
- The financial resources of each party, including savings and sources of income
- The time necessary for a receiving spouse to gain education or other skills to become self-sustaining
- The contributions to the marriage by each party
- The age and physical/emotional condition of the spouses
PERMANENT ALIMONY IS RARELY AWARDED
Permanent alimony, which is again alimony that must be paid indefinitely (oftentimes until the death or remarriage of the receiving spouse), is awarded when the receiving spouse is likely not able to become self-sustaining. The duration of the marriage will still be a factor in determining whether to award permanent alimony.
For short-term marriages (less than 7 years), there is a very high showing that must be made, and for moderate term marriages (7 to 17 years), there must be clear and convincing evidence of an inability to be self-sustaining. Marriages lasting longer than 17 years will be more likely candidates for permanent alimony.
CONTACT FLORIDA FAMILY LAW ATTORNEY RYAN MYNARD TODAY ABOUT YOUR ALIMONY MATTER
If you have any questions about alimony in Florida, or you are seeking counsel in any other Florida family law matter, contact Florida family law attorney Ryan Mynard at 850-683-3940 today to get started.