Florida divorces involving alimony issues have given rise to new legislation over the last few years and will continue into the near future. The alimony debate in Florida is based on a number of factors, including the lack of an alimony calculation that is state mandated in determining the amount of alimony to be paid. According to a press release on Market Watch, Anderson Cooper is reportedly doing a show on Monday, January 9, 2012 highlighting the issues of Florida alimony; however, the report that came out about the show seems to have things reported incorrectly and in an effort to decrease emotional responses, I thought, as a Florida divorce lawyer, that I would debunk some of the myths that allegedly will be reported on the show.
First, the idea that men are the ones that suffer from alimony payments. In Florida, like most of the country, men and women work. If a woman makes reportedly more money than her husband and they divorce, then she may be on the hook for paying alimony.
Second, alimony is awarded without regards any provisions other than a party makes more money than the other spouse. Again, this is not true. In Florida, the factors used in determining alimony include, but are not limited to, the length of the marriage, the contribution of both parties to the marriage, the marital lifestyle, the ability for the asking party to earn relatively similar income to that of the paying spouse, the employment history of the parties, the education history of the parties, the NEED for alimony, and the ABILITY to pay alimony. The court does not arbitrarily and without regard for incomes and expenses simply declare that a Husband will pay the Wife permanent alimony at 70% of the Husband’s income until he dies. In Florida, getting permanent alimony requires the asking party to show that the marriage is a long-term marriage (over 17 years); that the asking party has an ongoing need for permanent alimony (e.g. disability, lack of education, inability to earn, etc.); etc.
The Court considers many factors in determining alimony, but the starting point is not, as the article would suggest, men will pay alimony and the Wife, regardless of her age, education and contribution to the marriage, will receive alimony forever. Florida recognizes that people work and that a number of households are laced with two working spouses. While there are things that need tweaking with the alimony statute to make it less open to interpretation by the court, the ultimate starting point is, “Is this an alimony case?” and then asking, “Why or why not?” Each party must then present their case to the Judge for the court to ultimately decide if alimony will be awarded and what type of alimony may be awarded based on the evidence.
Florida allows for alimony to be paid in lump sum; permanent periodic; rehabilitative (i.e. for schooling); or bridge-the-gap to maintain finances from marriage to single life. Each type of alimony has it’s own provisions and thresholds that must be met before it is awarded to the other party.