Alimony

Alimony is a common topic discussed in dissolution of marriage proceedings. Although it can be associated with child support and children, in some circumstances it is just between the individuals of each party. Alimony in general, is the provisions or support ordered by the court for one party to pay the other for support after a marriage has ended. This can be granted to either party based off substantiated needs by the court.

Florida Statute, title VI, chapter 61, section 61.08 lists the kinds of alimony that may be awarded. “Alimony may be bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent in nature or any combination of these forms of alimony” (Fla. Stat. §61.08). There are many factors and circumstances that must be taken into consideration to determine the kind and how much alimony is needed or necessary in a dissolution of marriage.

How is Alimony Determined?

In the determination of alimony, there are many factors involved that are considered by the court in adjudicating who may get awarded what. For example, one thing a court can consider is “the adultery of either spouse” (Fla. Stat. §61.08). Another example is that alimony also cannot “leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient unless there are written findings of exceptional circumstances” (Fla. Stat. §61.08).

Relevant Factors

In Florida Statute §61.08, it clearly lists what information should and can be included that are relevant to the establishment of alimony. “The court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.

(b) The duration of the marriage.

(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.

(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.

(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.

(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.

(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.” (Fla. Stat. §61.08). These determining factors play a role in helping determine the type of alimony the court may award as well. There are variations in each kind of alimony and the expectations or responsibilities attached to them.

Different Kinds of Alimony

Understanding the various kinds of alimony is important and explained under Florida Statute §61.08. The first addressed is the bridge-the-gap alimony. This kind of alimony is only intended to be a short-term or temporary provisions that “may be awarded to assist a party by providing support to allow the party to make a transition from being married to being single. It 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. §61.08). This alimony is mainly intended to help support a party that needs help transitioning.

Rehabilitative

The terms of rehabilitative alimony differentiate from that of bridge-the-gap. The Statute states that: “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. §61.08). This kind of alimony helps support a party while they develop better or higher levels of education to apply in their employment.

Durational alimony is similar to temporary alimony. This is awarded “when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate…[helping] 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.” (Fla. Stat. §61.08). This kind of alimony also “may not exceed the length of the marriage” (Fla. Stat. §61.08).

Permanent

On the other hand, there is permanent alimony. According to Florida Statute §61.08, “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.” (Fla. Stat. §61.08)

Florida Court Cases

There have been many cases involving alimony in Florida courts. One example is Johnson v. Johnson, No. 2D16-4890, 2018 WL 2749974 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. June 8, 2018). In this case, the former wife appealed the circuit court’s decisions in the dissolution of her marriage. There was an excessive amount of time between the hearing and judgement. And it was found that there was enough evidence to provide permanent alimony to the wife. However, the trial court only declared that durational alimony was fair, contradicting the evidence provided.

The court affirmed that the former wife was entitled to permanent alimony. She had spent most of her long-term marriage out of the workforce, staying at home with the children. She was unable to support herself and did not have the ability due to some medical conditions. Therefore she also could not live in any similar lifestyle to that provided by her husband who was an attorney.

It was seen that the trial court’s decision on durational alimony did not take into consideration any evidence or facts pertaining to the wife and her ability or inability to support herself. Due to this, the case was also reversed and remanded in part.

Stricklin v. Stricklin Case

Additionally, the case of Stricklin v. Stricklin, No. 1D16-5549, 2018 WL 2399335 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. May 25, 2018) originally awarded the former wife durational alimony of $2,500 per month for two years. The court also awarded the wife $19,000 for attorney fees and cost. However, when the former husband appealed it was found that the original trail court had insufficient evidence as to how it came to the ruling for awarding the former wife durational alimony and attorney fees and cost. There needed to be additional evidence and documentation showing the wife’s need for alimony along with the former husband’s ability to pay. However, it was affirmed that the attorney cost and fees was a reasonable amount, the case was reversed in part due to lack of information as to how the decision was made, and remanded.

 

Throughout cases involving the dissolution of a marriage, alimony is bound to be a subject that gets brought up and discussed. However, there are many factors that influence and impact whether or not a party gets granted alimony. Whether awarded bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent alimony, the same information is taken into consideration. It is also important to keep in mind that alimony is only awarded if there is a sufficient means or evidence that support is truly needed.

 

References:

http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String=&URL=0000-0099/0061/Sections/0061.08.html

Johnson v. Johnson, No. 2D16-4890, 2018 WL 2749974 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. June 8, 2018)

Stricklin v. Stricklin, No. 1D16-5549, 2018 WL 2399335 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. May 25, 2018)