Contemplating divorce often comes with worry about alimony, whether you are the person who would pay it or the one to receive it. What would be a fair amount for each party?
You and your spouse may already have agreed to alimony terms in a prenuptial or postmarital agreement, which is enforceable if the agreement is valid. Or you can negotiate alimony provisions, including amount, as part of a divorce settlement. But if no marital contract controls the question and the two of you disagree, the judge will have to decide on alimony issues during the divorce proceedings.
What does Florida law say?
The state’s alimony statute is quite detailed in its direction to judges when they set the amount of alimony awards. It specifically provides that the court may consider either spouse’s adultery when setting the amount of spousal support. If the judge finds that alimony is proper because the receiver has need and the payor has the means to pay, the statute directs that the type and amount of support must be set considering “all relevant factors,” including several in a list.
(The listed factors are in part (2) of the statute linked to above.)
Any of them could be relevant depending on the circumstances, but some that are more often at issue include the marital standard of living, physical or emotional health issues, earning capacities, child custody, services to the family like homemaking and child care that allow the other spouse to advance their education and career, income including passive investment income, and others.
The amount of spousal support must not significantly deplete the income of the payor below the income level of the recipient, absent “exceptional circumstances.”
What do Florida courts say?
State courts have interpreted the alimony statute in a variety of divorce cases. Some principles the courts have endorsed:
- While the purpose of alimony is not to make the income of the parties the same, if the judge has adequately evaluated all relevant factors and the amount paid will give the parties equivalent incomes, the order is valid if relevant factors support it.
- The court should not order a paying party pay an amount that will make it difficult to meet their own needs or require that they sell assets or borrow money to pay alimony.
- The court must be careful to accurately analyze each income stream, asset and debt to determine values. Is the source of income realistically something on which to base a fair alimony order?
- While the marital standard of living is a listed factor the judge must examine, it is not a “superfactor” that would require the payor to impoverish themselves to give the other spouse that living standard.
- And others
An experienced Florida divorce attorney can provide information, guidance and representation on all matters related to alimony.