Divorce potentially leaves spouses burdened with financial responsibilities and little means to satisfy them. With a dissolution of marriage comes living expenses that you once shared with a spouse. Your former spouse may have served as the primary bread-winner, leaving you with the need to enter the workforce if you are able.
Alimony aims to cushion the otherwise harsh financial consequences of divorce. Florida law affords various types of alimony to consider a dependent spouse’s needs and supporting spouse’s ability to pay. Claims for alimony are very fact-intensive and involve examination of various financial records and information on the spouses. Family law attorneys guide spouses through the factual and legal issues in alimony.
Types of Alimony
Permanent alimony lasts generally until the death of either spouse or until the recipient remarries. The length of the marriage determines what and how the court considers a permanent alimony award.
For long-term marriages, the judge in deciding upon alimony needs to demonstrate that it considered the factors such as income, education, ability of the supporting spouse, and expenses. Florida law treats a marriage of more than 17 years as long-term.
In the moderate length marriage category lies those of at least seven years and not more than 17. A spouse in a moderate length marriage must establish one of the factors by clear and convincing evidence. This standard calls for the judge to have a firm conviction of the grounds for alimony. If you were married for less than seven years and want permanent alimony, you must show “extraordinary circumstances.”
When a court rules that permanent alimony is not appropriate under the law or circumstances, it may award durational alimony. Primarily, spouses in short-term or moderate-term marriages may receive support for such time as needed to provide economic assistance.
Rehabilitative alimony focuses on placing you in a position of ultimate self-sufficiency. Florida law provides for this support to help you defray expenses for education and training to develop or enhance your employable skills. You must establish a specific plan, such as identifying the skills and the educational or training program in which you may enroll.
You might bolster your claim for rehabilitative alimony with evidence that you left a job or otherwise did not work because your spouse assumed the bread-winning role. This may have a special impact if your spouse held a high -paying job or you remained home to raise the children or tend to the home.
“Bridge the Gap”
A form of short-term alimony can help you transition financially from marriage to single living. The “bridge the gap” alimony award may help you with costs such as finding work, paying rent and utilities, or getting transportation especially if your spouse keeps the sole vehicle.
This support lasts only two years. Unlike permanent, durational, and rehabilitative, spouses cannot seek increases or decreases in the amount or length of “bridge the gap” alimony payments.
Factors in an Alimony Award
Section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes list the types of alimony and the factors which the court considers in awarding alimony. Generally, the dependency of the spouse seeking it and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay predominate the consideration. The judge may consider if either spouse committed adultery, but fault otherwise does not factor into an award of alimony.
As provided by the alimony statute, the factors include:
* The length of the marriage
* The standard of living during the marriage
* The spouses’ respective ages
* The spouses’ physical and mental health
* Level of education
* Vocational skills
* Work experience
* The time and expense needed to develop employable skills or education
* What each party contributed to the marriage, such as raising children, homemaking, education, advancing the other spouse’s career
* Amount of income and sources of income, such as job, investments, disability, and business ventures
* Assets and liabilities of each spouse
* Responsibility of each parent to children born of the marriage
Building Evidence for Alimony
Contested divorces such as those with alimony claims can prove time consuming and document extensive. In such a proceeding, the spouses must make “mandatory disclosures” of financial conditions and information. You and your spouse must submit a financial affidavit and produce documents such as:
* Income tax and gift returns for past three years
* Forms such as W-2s, 1099s, and K-1 (partnerships) for each of the past three years in which no return is filed
* Pay stubs and other documents of earned income for the three months before serving the financial affidavit
* Documents of income from any source for the three months before serving the financial affidavit
* Deeds within the last three years
* Promissory notes in the last 12 months
* Current leases
* Last three months of checking account statements
* Last 12 months of statements for savings ,certificate of deposit, and other accounts
* Most recent statement for 401(k), pension, retirement, profit-sharing, and other similar accounts
* Life insurance declarations page
* Cards for health and dental insurance on the spouses or children
The consequences of not timely, accurately, or adequately disclosing the financial information could include the exclusion of evidence and perhaps even dismissal of the claim or granting of the alimony claim if the supporting party violates the rules. Your lawyer can ensure that you provide the required information and that the opposing party does likewise.
With the information gleaned from disclosures, attorneys help clients prepare for alimony hearings and trials. Parties can also use the financial and other circumstances revealed in discovery to reach a settlement of Alimony claims. Your attorney can negotiate specific terms on the amount or duration of alimony and whether either party will have alimony at all.
The resolution of alimony may even occur through a prenuptial agreement. Such a contract predates the marriage and can provide that you give up your right to alimony in the event of a divorce or can set the duration and amount of alimony. Florida law requires that the agreement be in writing and signed by both prospective spouses and that each make full disclosure of property and finances to the other.
Your spouse might invoke the prenuptial agreement as a defense to your claim for alimony. If so, your attorney can examine the agreement and determine if you can have it invalidated because your spouse did not truthfully reveal property and income before you signed.
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