Spousal support still exists but for different reasons than previously recognized. Families typically do not rely only on one income, but spouses often seek support after divorce because they made non-financial contributions to their family, which set back their education or careers. The phrase spousal support is now used instead of alimony.
Florida courts generally assume that a marriage is composed of two spouses enjoying the same standard of living. After divorce, the spouse with the higher standard of living should maintain that standard for the other spouse rather than allowing that spouse’s living standard to fall, which would force them to seek government assistance.
Support is awarded at the time of divorce and must be sought before it is finalized. Spousal support may terminate early if the paying spouse dies, the recipient spouse remarries, the court-ordered support period is over or the court ends payments.
Spouses can request modification at any time. Each type of support has different modification criteria.
The spouse seeking support must show need and the other spouse must have the ability to pay support. Courts also consider:
- The marriage length with the presumption that marriages less than seven years are ineligible for support while marriages over 17 years qualify.
- The standard of living during marriage.
- The spouses’ physical and mental health.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity skills and resources.
- Each spouse’s income.
- Each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage.
There are five types of support. Temporary spousal support is awarded to lower earning spouses to help them during the divorce process if they can demonstrate need and the other spouse can pay the support. This support ends when the divorce is final.
Bridge the gap support is meant to assist the lower-earning spouse bridge the gap between their marriage and divorce. It can last no more than two years.
Rehabilitative support is the most common. It allows the lower-earning spouse to become self-sufficient through education, training or career advancement. The spouse seeking this support must have a rehabilitative plan and show how they will become self-sufficient.
Duration support lasts for a specific period, such as until their children reach 18. Support cannot last longer than the length of the marriage.
Permanent spousal support is rare. It requires a marriage lasting over 17 years barring circumstances such as disability. The spouse seeking support must show that it is difficult to become self-supporting. The other spouse can argue that support is not needed by showing that the receiving spouse has assets or earning capacity to keep their standard of living.
Attorneys in Florida can assist spouses in seeking a fair and reasonable decree. They can represent them in negotiations and proceedings.