What is Nominal Alimony?

money-chainedWith many divorce cases also comes the notion of alimony. There are a number of different types of alimony in Florida, varying from permanent to rehabilitative. In some instances judges will award a party with “nominal alimony.” But, while you wont see this form of alimony in the statutes, you will see that this has developed in case law over the years. Nominal Alimony is not a form of alimony like rehabilitative, permanent, or durational, instead the nominal alimony designation is simply a space preserver to allow the receiving party to apply for a modification at a later date. Few states, including Florida, recognize this type of alimony award.

Nominal alimony differs from rehabilitative alimony because rehabilitative alimony is temporary for receiving spouse until he or she can get on his or her own feet. This is typically awarded in cases where the receiving spouse surrendered their ability to work during the course of the marriage in order to stay home and care for the kids or conduct other household duties. Rehabilitative alimony will temporarily support the receiving spouse until he or she is able to seek employment.

Whereas with nominal alimony, the court may order a spouse to pay a significantly small amount, as small as $1 a year, until that spouse is able to pay larger amount. This amount is not meant to support the receiving spouse, but instead preserves the receiving spouse’s right to receive alimony at a later date. It also reserves the court’s jurisdiction to revisit the issue of alimony should the paying spouse’s circumstances improve. The court may choose to award nominal alimony if it is likely that the paying spouse’s circumstances will change in the future and that this change would warrant alimony for the receiving spouse.  It is the court’s decision to determine whether or not to award nominal alimony.  If the court does not feel enough evidence exists to prove that the spouse’s financial circumstances will change in the foreseeable future, the court can choose not to award nominal alimony and instead enter an award for one of the statutory forms of alimony available.

One of the factors the court will look at to determine if nominal alimony should be awarded is the length of the marriage.  A spouse from a long-term marriage is more likely to receive nominal alimony than a spouse from a short-term marriage. There is also a “moderate range area” of marriage which does not have a specific time frame, but is somewhere between 7 and 17 years. For marriages in this area, courts will put more emphasis on disparities in income. For example, if one spouse makes significantly more than the other, the court may consider this when deciding if nominal alimony should be awarded. An award of nominal alimony can be cumbersome for the receiving spouse, as they will typically need to seek further litigation in order to be awarded an amount of alimony that will support them. While nominal alimony can be a burden, it is also a blessing as it allows for the litigation to cease temporarily without making an untimely ruling on an alimony award that would not be sufficient for support.

If you’re in the midst of a divorce and believe that alimony should be awarded, but there are some present circumstance that make the probability of receiving an alimony award seem unlikely, you should contact a knowledgeable Florida Attorney to discuss the possibility of a nominal alimony award.