The different types of alimony in Florida and what they all mean
Both parties entering into divorce proceedings may have some fear and trepidation about whether they can agree about alimony. Or, whether the judge will order spousal support and what the award will look like. One thing certain at this point might be uncertainty.
A potential recipient may have concerns about meeting their needs and those of their children, or about maintaining their lifestyle. On the other hand, the spouse who would pay support wants any alimony order to be fair and fully consider their income, assets and needs.
Sometimes divorcing spouses worry about spousal support awards if they disagree on spending practices or suspect the other is hiding assets or money. No matter the financial condition of the family, spousal support questions can raise the anxiety level of spouses locked in overall conflict.
To quote Emerson, “Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” So, let’s look at the types of alimony in the Sunshine State.
Four kinds of spousal support
For a judge to order alimony in Florida, they must find that the recipient needs it, and the other party can pay it. Sometimes people think of alimony as monthly payments from one ex-spouse to the other until one of them dies. While this is a potential award, it is by no means the only option available to a Florida judge.
The court can decline to order spousal support or can craft an award using any of four types of alimony or any combination of them. Payments can be periodic (such as monthly or weekly) or in a lump sum, or in any combination of these.
This support, not to exceed two years in duration, helps a spouse in the transition to living as a single person and with “legitimate identifiable short-term needs.”
When a divorcing person needs retraining, vocational or professional relicensing or recertification, education, training or work experience to develop the “capacity for self-support,” the court can order rehabilitative alimony to assist during a period of vocational rehabilitation. The court’s order must include a “specific and defined rehabilitative plan.”
Durational alimony provides “economic assistance for a set period of time” when permanent payments are not necessary. Duration is limited to the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony is appropriate to “provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage” when one spouse cannot meet their own needs after divorce. The court can only order permanent support if no other type of alimony would be “fair and reasonable under the circumstances.”
Permanent spousal support has no end date, but terminates:
- Upon the death of either party
- Upon the remarriage of the recipient
The court may modify or terminate permanent alimony:
- Upon the recipient’s entry into a “supportive relationship” as defined in Florida statute
- Upon a substantial change in circumstances
Each alimony type has its own eligibility requirements as well as termination or modification rules. The judge must consider all relevant factors in each case, including whether adultery occurred and the surrounding circumstances. Florida law also directs the court to weigh each factor in a long list, which we discussed in a previous post.