In most divorces, the amount and duration of alimony depends upon the duration of the marriage. For marriages that are deemed to be “long term” (more than 17 years), the courts will grant permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is almost never granted where the marriage lasted seven years or less. In most cases, courts use an award of alimony to equalize the former spouses’ economic condition and standard of living.
In most divorces, the spouse who will have the greater income after the divorce (or a non-custodial parent) will be required to pay some form of alimony to the spouse with the lower income. A closer look at Florida law will reveal that alimony is a far more complex topic than demonstrated by this quick overview.
When a court grants alimony to equalize the two spouses’ standards of living, the award will have an expiration date. However, Florida law limits the duration of an alimony award to a period not longer than the duration of the marriage. Durational alimony is most often ordered in short and medium term marriages.
If one spouse needs a period of enhanced financial support to recover financial independence, the court may order what is known as “rehabilitative alimony.” Such an award is usually made to allow one spouse to complete his or her education. The spouse who seeks this type of alimony must provide a plan for how the additional payments will be used in furthering that spouse’s career.
In marriages where one spouse has a significantly greater income, that spouse will frequently be ordered to pay alimony while the divorce is proceeding. Temporary alimony payments usually ended when the final judgment and decree are entered.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is similar to temporary alimony. Courts order the payment of bridge-the-gap alimony to help one spouse finish an educational program, to cover living expenses while waiting for the family home to sell, and similar needs. The duration of bridge-the gap alimony is limited by statute to two years.
Lump sum alimony is a single, lump sum payment by one spouse to the other. This type of alimony is usually ordered to help one spouse pay expenses during a foreseeable period of reduced income. Lump sum alimony is also used to balance the distribution of marital assets.
Factors that determine alimony
The complete list of factors used by Florida judges to award or deny alimony is too long for this single blog post. Anyone who is facing a divorce may wish to consult an experienced divorce lawyer for advice on questions of alimony eligibility and related information.