Alimony in Florida, also known as spousal support, can be defined as money paid by one spouse to the other spouse either during the divorce process (called temporary alimony) or for some structured time period after the divorce is finalized.
There are several different types of alimony in Florida.
There is bridge-the-gap alimony for help with short term financial needs; rehabilitative alimony designed to help a spouse gain the education or training needed to obtain employment; durational alimony which is the newest form of spousal support in Florida; and permanent alimony which is used in cases where the needy spouse lacks the ability to become self-supporting.
Florida courts have the authority to award one or more types of alimony in any case where one spouse has a need for spousal support and the other spouse has the ability to pay it.
Unless the parties to a divorce case have agreed otherwise, Florida courts do have the authority to modify rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony.
The extent to which alimony, also known as spousal support, can be modified depends largely upon the type of alimony in question.
But, in any case, a party seeking to modify an alimony award must prove a few things.
He or she must be able to prove that there has been a substantial change in the circumstances of one or both parties since the existing alimony award was entered.
In most cases, that means proving that the receiving spouse no longer has a need for the amount of alimony that was ordered, or that the paying spouse no longer has the ability to pay.
There must also be evidence that the change in circumstances is permanent in nature, and that it was involuntary, not something caused by the party who is requesting the modification.
Unlike with child support, there is not currently a simple mathematic formula for calculating the appropriate amount of alimony or spousal support in a divorce case.
The amount of alimony that a spouse receives is entirely within the discretion of the family court judge and, as long as that discretion is not abused, the judge’s decision is final.
That being said, we do know what goes into the court’s determination of how much alimony, if any, to award.
All alimony awards in Florida are based on the same two primary factors – need and ability to pay.
In other words, one spouse has to prove that he or she needs spousal support and then he or she must prove that the other spouse has the financial ability to pay the amount of support needed.
It’s important to remember that both elements have to be proven before any court can award alimony. If one spouse has a need for support, but the other spouse doesn’t have the ability to pay it, the alimony request will be denied. On the other hand, if one spouse has a clear ability to pay spousal support, but the other spouse cannot prove that he or she needs alimony, the request will be denied.
The length of an alimony award depends in large part on the circumstances of each particular case. This is because there are several different types of alimony in Florida, and the duration of an award is almost always within the sole discretion of the judge.
For example, bridge-the-gap alimony is meant to be a short-term award with a two-year maximum duration.
On the other hand, the length of the marriage caps the length of a durational alimony award. If the marriage lasted 15 years, then so can a durational alimony award.
Of course, if the parties to a divorce enter into a settlement agreement, they can make any agreements they want to make regarding the length of an alimony award.
In Florida, alimony is generally taxable to the party who receives spousal support. Likewise, the alimony award can be deductible by the paying party.
However, both parties to a divorce case can enter into an agreement that makes alimony non-taxable to the recipient and non-deductible for the paying spouse if they choose.
That being said, the tax consequences surrounding alimony and spousal support can be complex.
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