As discussed in our last blog post, Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that would have limited the amount of alimony a spouse could receive and for how long. He said he “could not support this legislation because it applies retroactively and thus tampers with the settled economic expectations of many Floridians who have experienced divorce,” and that the “retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unanticipated results.” To fully understand the limitations the proposed bill would have made permanent, it’s essential to understand the types of alimony currently available in Florida.
Six Types of Alimony in Florida — and When and How Alimony May Be Modified or Terminated
- Temporary Alimony: This type of alimony is sometimes awarded to help the non-paying spouse with his/her financial needs during the time the divorce action is pending, and prior to the divorce being finalized. Modification: The provisions of a temporary alimony award may be modified, unless the parties agree to something different.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: This type of alimony is awarded for no more than two years to ease the non-paying spouse’s transition back to single life. Termination: This type of alimony terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the non-paying spouse (absent an agreement by the parties for something different). Modification: This type of alimony is not modifiable as to amount or duration, absent a different agreement of the parties.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is usually awarded in medium and short-term marriages, and is intended to assist the non-paying spouse in becoming self-supporting or more self-supporting, typically through redeveloping old skills or credentials, or in acquiring new education, training or work experience. The non-paying spouse has to present a rehabilitation plan to the Court. Modification/Termination: An award of rehabilitative alimony may be modified or terminated upon a substantial change in circumstances, upon non-compliance with the rehabilitative plan or upon completion of the plan (unless the parties have agreed to something different).
- Durational Alimony: This type of alimony can be awarded when permanent alimony is not appropriate, and is awarded in moderate-term and short-term marriages, and even in many long-term marriages. The purpose of this type of alimony is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time. The length of durational alimony may not exceed the number of years of the marriage. Termination: This type of alimony automatically terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the non-paying party (absent a different agreement of the parties). Modification: Absent a different agreement of the parties, the amount of durational alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances of either party or based upon the non-paying spouse entering into a supportive relationship (based on the factors set forth in the statute), but the length of an award may not be modified except upon a showing of exceptional circumstances.
- Permanent Alimony: Allows a spouse who has not worked (or has lower income or earning power) to seek permanent alimony in order to continue living a similar lifestyle after the marriage, enjoyed during the marriage, but only where the Court finds that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances. While usually only awarded in marriages longer than 17 years, it can, in some limited circumstances, be awarded in marriages lasting less than 17 years, if certain factors are present (in moderate-term marriages, an award of permanent alimony must be based on clear and convincing evidence, and in short-term marriages, an award of permanent alimony must be based on written findings by the Court that there are exceptional circumstances. Termination: Permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party, or the remarriage of the non-paying spouse (absent a different agreement by the parties). Modification: An award of permanent alimony may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in the financial or other relevant circumstances of either party, or upon the Court finding that the non-paying spouse has entered into a supportive relationship (based on the factors set forth in the statute), unless the parties have agreed to something different regarding modification.
- Lump-sum Alimony: Can be used as support or a way to divide certain types of assets, like a business.
In order to award alimony, the Court must find that one party has a need for alimony and that the other party has the ability to pay the alimony. A lawyer can work with you to prove your need, or to help you with a request for the modification or termination of alimony payments.
Attorney Andrea Jevic also contributed to this blog post.