How is Alimony Awarded in the State of Florida? Length of Marriage and Other Factors

Florida-Alimony-300x213Many people stay in marriages that they would otherwise leave, because they are afraid of the financial strain that divorce presents.  For many, the question of whether an alimony award is required by Florida law is an obstacle that seems insurmountable when considering going it alone after many years of marriage.

For the spouse who has stayed home to raise children or has sacrificed their career by moving for the higher paid spouse, the reality of how this spouse will afford to pay the bills, keep the marital home, or have any sense of security is terrifying, and in many instances, they have relied heavily on the higher paid spouse to take care of the finances while they have taken care of the household.   Alimony in the State of Florida is meant as a means of making that transition a more normal consideration, because the court will consider whether the lesser paid spouse has a work history, and what their needs actually look like, and how the higher paid spouse can continue to provide financial stability to both spouses while going from married to single.

On the other hand, the higher paid spouse in many instances, may recognize that his or her higher income has been able to afford a level of comfort when providing for the family under one roof, but the likelihood of the same level of financial freedom while providing for two households seems impossible.  In these cases, it is important to recognize that Florida family law courts have to balance the need and ability of both spouses to contribute to the transition of being married to single for both spouses. Alimony may be presumed in long term marriages, in Florida, meaning over 17 years of marriage, but it is not guaranteed and the court will consider whether an actual need for financial assistance between spouses is required. Factors that the court will consider not only include how much money each spouse makes, but also what the lifestyle of the marriage included, what each contributed to the marriage, and also the overall asset and debt liability that exists for each spouse after the marriage has ended.

Those marriages that are short (less than 7 years) or moderate (between 7 and 17 years), may support arguments for other forms of alimony that exist in the law, but permanent alimony, where one spouse receives support for the remainder of their life is typically not an available remedy.  Rather, in these instances, courts will consider if a spouse needs to attend school to be able to earn at a higher rate, where rehabilitative alimony would be appropriate, or perhaps, durational alimony where the years of marriage are a measuring stick for how long spousal support may extend.  See Section 61.08 – Alimony – Florida Statutes. 

Retaining an experienced Florida family law attorney to discuss what options may be available in your case is essential when deciding if you are ready to take the next step in divorce. Understanding your risk and also your possible options is important for the plan of what your future post-marriage may look like, and so that you can make the best decision for yourself. Financial strain is one of the top reasons that people get divorced, but it is also the reason that many stay in a marriage that they would otherwise leave, and being educated as to what your options may be, gives you the power to make your decision for your best life.

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