Florida law allows for alimony but the ordered alimony must fall into one (or many) of the classifications laid out in the statute “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)
Only two of the alimonies listed above in the Florida statute are really temporary alimony, rehabilitative alimony and bridge-the-gap alimony. In the old days, before 2010, the only temporary alimony allowed was rehabilitative alimony.
Florida courts kept running into the issue that it’s more expensive to operate two households instead of just one. There is usually an awkward transition, financially, when the parties go from one household to two. It may mean breaking a lease, getting an extra cable subscription, or buying a second car. This stuff seems obvious but in the tumult of a divorce, it is not top-of-mind.
Covering these divorce and post-divorce expenses do not really fall under “rehabilitative maintenance” as the statute and the case law defines it. So, Florida courts started to award temporary alimony to cover these expenses even when it wasn’t allowed. Shea v. Shea, 572 So. 2d 558 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990)
Florida courts were describing bridge-the-gap alimony before any law called “bridge the gap” was passed. “Bridge-the-gap alimony is intended to smooth the transition of a spouse from married to single life.” Bryan v. Bryan, 765 So. 2d 829, 831 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000)
Finally, the legislature passed the 2010 alimony reform (American history has shown that the legislature usually follows the courts in America).
“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)
Typically, bridge-the-gap alimony involves two parties who are married and both have jobs. The lesser-earner can support him or herself but it is going to be a transition going from a single family home to a condo (and in Naples, Florida we know how much both of those cost).
So, while the parties can and will survive, they have one-time expenses they have both have to push through. The higher-earner may be asked to pay for some of the expenses of the low-earner to make that transition.
In many ways, bridge-the-gap alimony becomes a way to transition from one standard of living to another.
Finally, bridge-the-gap alimony must be laid out in the judgment or Marital Settlement Agreement as expenses identified with specificity. Cohen v. Cohen, 29 So. 3d 403 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010) This means the new condo’s 1st and last rent payment, the new cable and the second car…and nothing else.
If you’re the higher-earning spouse you may be asking yourself, “when will this be over? Will he or she nickel-and-dime me to the last moment.” The answer is “Now! Bridge-the-gap alimony is the last pay-off ever. You should be thrilled to know that bridge-the-gap alimony means it is over…ask the people paying permanent alimony.”
If you’re a candidate to receive bridge-the-gap alimony, you’ll be comforted to know that divorce may be terrible but at least you can get help with the transition.
Contact my Naples, Florida family law office today to learn more about this kind of alimony and the many other kinds that are available in Florida.