Alimony is based on numerous factors laid out in Florida statues and years of case-law. There are some key concepts: “need”, “ability to pay”, and the duration of the marriage, with need based on the marital standard of living. The Florida alimony statute – F.S. § 61.08, was amended recently and now establishes presumptions for what are long-term, moderate term, or short-term marriages, and spells out the different types of alimony.
The amount of each party’s income, the income a spouse’s business generates, or a spouse’s earning ability now or in the future, can be hotly contested issues in a case. If a spouse is un- or under-employed, income can be “imputed” to them.
Types of Alimony
If the court determines that one spouse needs support and the other has the ability to pay, the types of alimony the court can choose from are: (1) alimony to “bridge-the-gap” for a short period of time after the divorce; (2) “rehabilitative alimony”, e.g. when a spouse is awarded money for a period of time so they can return to school and increase their income; 3) lump-sum alimony; 4) “durational alimony”, for some period of time up to a period of time equaling the length of the marriage; and 5) “permanent, periodic alimony”, until one spouse dies, or the receiving spouse remarries or begins living with someone in a “supportive relationship”.
Need and Ability to Pay
If one party’s income isn’t high enough for them to pay their bills or support themselves at the marital standard of living, they have a “need”. Sometimes following a divorce, neither party can live as good a life-style as before the divorce, and the “ability to pay” analysis will focus, in some respects, on equalizing the parties' financial situations.
Alimony and Child Support
Alimony affects Child Support, because child support is based on each parent’s net income, and alimony affects each spouse’s net income (there are also tax effects from alimony). Looking at it from the other side, when a spouse pays child support, they have less available net income. Most attorneys use family law financial software to make the calculations easier, and assist in evaluating different scenarios.
Resolving Alimony Issues
Although alimony is based in part on numbers and financial information, it’s actually a subjective issue where the judge has a lot of discretion, even under the new alimony statute. When alimony is a contested issue, it’s important to nail down any disputed income or other information, through a process in litigation called “Discovery”. The next step is to analyze all of the subjective and other factors that affect the determination of alimony – think it all through; and then give you my advice regarding the amount of alimony to demand if you are seeking alimony, or to offer if you are paying.
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