Written By: Lenorae Atter, Attorney
Alimony can be an issue in a Florida divorce and is often base on need and ability to pay. The Florida legislature has made drastic changes to the alimony statute to make it easier for the courts to apply the right type of alimony in a divorce case. Given that there are multiple forms of alimony, the Florida legislators were hoping to narrow the field for length of time that alimony may be awarded. In accordance with Florida Statute 61.08 alimony may be applied by Florida courts to either party and may be awarded in many different forms including the following: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, lump sum, permanent, or an alimony award may be a combination of more than one form (i.e. rehabilitative to pay for schooling and periodic for a certain duration).
Bridge-the-gap alimony is an unmodifiable alimony award that provides a party financial assistance to aid that party in transitioning from being marriage to being single. It is designed to assist the party with any legitimate and identifiable short-term needs. The length of any bridge-the-gap alimony award may be granted in a short-term marriage, generally under 7 years and may terminate upon the death of either party or if the receiving spouse remarries.
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to assist a party in “establishing the capacity for self-support through either: (1) the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or (2) the acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials.” Fl. St. § 61.08(6). A specific and defined rehabilitative plan must exist in order to receive this type of award. This type of alimony may be modifiable and terminated in accordance with Florida Law based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon noncompliance or completion with the rehabilitative plan.
Durational alimony provides a party with financial assistance for a set period time and should be awarded in circumstances where permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. Generally this may be awarded for what is determined to a medium length marriage. Durational alimony may also be modified or terminated based upon substantial changes in circumstances, in accordance with Florida Law. However, the length of a an alimony award may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may never exceed the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony is used when there is a long-term marriage (i.e. greater than 16 years) and is awarded if it can be shown that the requesting party has an ongoing and permanent need for alimony. This type of alimony provides the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage to a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities following a divorce. Permanent alimony is most appropriate regarding long-term marriages, but may also be awarded to a party in a moderate- or short-marriage if the circumstances are proper (i.e. a spouse is disabled or extremely ill). This award may terminated upon death of either party or upon remarriage of the receiving spouse. An award can be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship.
Any form of alimony may be extended passed the life of the paying party if the court order requires the paying party to maintain life insurance to secure said payments.
Lump sum alimony may be awarded instead of a periodic payment schedule (i.e. monthly payments). The idea is that instead of making monthly payments for a period of time, the paying party may pay one lump sum to the receiving party. This lump sum alimony does not have the same tax implications for the paying party in that it cannot be tax deductible to the paying party. Also, if the receiving party were to pass before the payment is made, then the payment may still have to be made to the estate of the receiving party.
Due to different forms of alimony, it is important that you speak with an experienced family law attorney if you believe that your case will involve an alimony issue. Understanding your rights and options is vital to having a successful divorce.