In Florida, alimony is first governed by the alimony statute which immediately informs us that there are numerous kinds of alimony.
“In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court may grant alimony to either party, which alimony may be bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent in nature or any combination of these forms of alimony” Fla. Stat. Sec 61.08(1)
These various types of alimony may be considered by the court when they award alimony. The court will issue a decision based on one or more of these different theories of alimony. Let’s cover each kind of alimony.
- Bridge-The-Gap Alimony.
“Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single. Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs, and the length of an award may not exceed 2 years. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award of bridge-the-gap alimony shall not be modifiable in amount or duration.” Fla. Stat. Sec 61.08(5)
Bridge-the-gap alimony is temporary in nature. It acknowledges that after the separation of the parties one of the parties will have an excess of expenses during the immediate aftermath of the divorce. Think of it as an award to get one party “back on their feet”. Whatever award is made, bridge-the-gap alimony shall not last for more than 2 years. The courts should identify specific expenses when making these awards. Engesser v. Engesser, 42 So. 3d 249 (Fla. 5th DCA 2010).
- Rehabilitative Alimony.
“(6)(a) Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self-support through either:
1. The redevelopment of previous skills or credentials; or
2. The acquisition of education, training, or work experience necessary to develop appropriate employment skills or credentials.
(b) In order to award rehabilitative alimony, there must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan which shall be included as a part of any order awarding rehabilitative alimony.
(c) An award of rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated in accordance with s.61.14 based upon a substantial change in circumstances, upon noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan, or upon completion of the rehabilitative plan.” Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.08(6).
Rehabilitative alimony is for when the lesser-earning spouse has the potential to support him or herself one day. When this type of alimony is awarded a defined goal and a specific plan are required in the court order. For example, rehabilitative alimony may only be awarded while one spouse finishes his or her degree at a rate enough to support themselves and pay for some of the college expenses.
- Durational Alimony
“(7) Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration or following a marriage of long duration if there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis. An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. The amount of an award of durational alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances in accordance with s. 61.14. However, the length of an award of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.” Fla. Stat. Sec 61.08(7)
Durational alimony is simply a payment set by the court that lasts a set amount of time. For example, $ 1000 a month for 10 years. The statute even presumes that change could happen within either of the parties lives that would necessitate modification. So, while this is durational, the amount could change at any moment so long as there is a substantial change in circumstances. The duration, however, can only be changed under exceptional circumstances.
- Permanent Alimony
“(8) Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of long duration if such an award is appropriate upon consideration of the factors set forth in subsection (2), following a marriage of moderate duration if such an award is appropriate based upon clear and convincing evidence after consideration of the factors set forth in subsection (2), or following a marriage of short duration if there are written findings of exceptional circumstances. In awarding permanent alimony, the court shall include a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances of the parties. An award of permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship in accordance with s.61.14.”
Permanent alimony is awarded when a spouse is declared to be permanently incapable of self-support. Then a showing is often made that the reason for the incapability of self-support is the marriage itself, that one party stayed at home to raise the children. Typically, permanent alimony is only awarded when the marriage is well in excess of 15 years.
Again, permanent alimony can be modified should there be any substantial change such as retirement of the payor or the payee proving that he or she can self-support in the whole or partially with some kind of work.
- Lump-Sum Alimony
Finally, there is one kind of alimony that can be awarded that is not mentioned in that portion of the statute, Lump-sum alimony.
A court may find that parties with significant assets can simply shift a portion of those assets to the lesser-earning spouse “in lieu of alimony”. For example, a couple with a million dollars in assets may award the low earning spouse $ 750,000 of the million in lieu of alimony thereby extinguishing any alimony liability of the other spouse.
Lump-sum alimony is almost always done by agreement because of it’s non-statutory nature
So when a party asks for alimony, the party (or their lawyer) has to ask for a specific kind of alimony as listed above and then state the specific reasons why that alimony should be awarded. Outside of that, the discretion to award alimony is completely left up to the local judge. If you live in Naples, Florida it is important to know the policies of the Collier County judges regarding alimony before making any alimony requests or defenses.
As you can see, alimony is not a simple formula in Florida. Alimony is at first a complicated negotiation between the two parties who have to guess at how a judge would interpret the many different kinds of available alimony (all of which are available simultaneously). Presenting the evidence to a judge to prove which alimony should be available or not available is even more complicated.
All of the above types of alimony once established to be a right, have to then be calculated based on a myriad of factors such as need, ability-to-pay and standard-of-living.
Obviously, calculating alimony in Florida is not a science. Negotiating and proving alimony in Florida is an art.
To learn more about what kind of alimony you could receive or be asked to pay, contact my Naples, Florida family law office for a free consultation.