Divorce proceedings can be incredibly difficult, both emotionally and time-wise, especially when it comes to alimony negotiations. Should you find yourself in a contested divorce that requires the establishment of alimony and/or spousal support, make sure you have a qualified lawyer by your side.
Through experience, divorce lawyer Kristin Padowitz has come to appreciate the contentious nature of issues like alimony negotiations and is thus committed to ensuring that our clients end up with a positive outcome.
Alimony Determinations in Florida
After a divorce, there’s usually a spouse who’s obligated to financially support the other. This is known as alimony or spousal support, and it usually entails a higher-income spouse providing financial support to the lower-income spouse for a specific number of years. This enables the lower-income spouse to retain the same lifestyle standard that they had during the course of the marriage.
The duration of the marriage is one of the major determining factors in alimony. The longer the duration of the marriage, the higher the probability of one spouse getting alimony. According to the Florida Statutes, marriages that have lasted for seven years or less are considered to be short-term marriages, marriages that last for 7 to 17 years are considered to be moderate-term marriages, and marriages that have lasted 17 years or longer are long-term marriages. The duration of the marriage starts from the marriage date to the filing of the divorce petition.
Generally, short-term and durational-term marriages qualify the spouse for bridge-the-gap alimony, durational alimony and rehabilitative alimony. Long-term marriages qualify the spouse for permanent alimony, as well as bridge-the-gap, durational, and rehabilitative alimony.
Alimony is not determined through the application of a mathematical formula, as is the case when determining child support. It’s up to the court to decide what kind of alimony to award, as well as the amount and duration of it. That said, the court must still follow a defined set of rules and regulations when determining alimony.
According to Florida law, there are mainly five kinds of alimony that one may be entitled to after a divorce, namely:
- Lump-Sum Alimony: This refers to a single fixed amount that’s awarded to a spouse due to rare circumstances like being in extremely poor health.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: As the name implies, this sort of alimony only lasts for a short amount of time and is intended to support the spouse while they’re still finding their feet as a single person again after being married for some time. As such, bridge-the-gap alimony only lasts for two years and is a set amount that cannot be changed.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is also awarded for a limited amount of time, and its purpose is to financially assist the spouse until they can become self-reliant again. It usually covers things like tuition fees or is a supplement to the spouse’s income.
- Durational Alimony: This type of alimony mainly applies to marriages that have only lasted for a short period of time and is equal to the duration of the marriage.
- Permanent Alimony: This form of alimony is intended to support the spouse until the payee remarries, or until they get into another relationship where they have to take on a supportive role. Payment for this type of alimony will also cease when the payee spouse passes on.
Generally speaking, those are the five types of alimony under Florida law. One of the most common is permanent alimony in which one of the spouses is required to financially support the other, permanently. This type of alimony is usually granted in a situation where the payor is in a superior financial position to the other spouse and there was a long-term marriage. With that said, the alimony should be a reasonable amount that still leaves the payor with a comfortable net income at the end of the day, unless there are other prevailing circumstances.
It’s important to note here that permanent alimony is only awarded in situations where the couple is coming out of a long-term marriage, and moderate-term marriages can be awarded permanent alimony as well, but on condition that the statutory criteria is met. Short-term marriages can only qualify for permanent alimony if written evidence of extraordinary circumstances can be provided. Lastly, permanent alimony can only be awarded in situations where the court is able to prove that it’s the most reasonable and just form of alimony for the situation.
The second kind of alimony is known as durational alimony. As the name implies, this type of alimony is usually for a set amount of time which must not go beyond the term of the marriage itself. Moderate-term alimony is usually applied to short and moderate-term marriages but it may also be applied to long-term marriage situations if permanent support is no longer a requirement.
Next, there’s rehabilitative alimony which is awarded on a temporary basis to spouses that are still completing certain education and/or training that will allow them to earn enough to eventually support themselves.
Lastly, you have “bridge-the-gap” alimony which lasts for up to two years and is meant to help a spouse that’s transitioning from married life to singlehood.
The law does allow for the court to award temporary alimony from the date of the court case filing up until the date of the final hearing. However, at the date of the final hearing, the court might decide to either increase or decrease the amount which was awarded for the temporary alimony, or do away with it altogether.
The court will typically order alimony in situations where there’s a huge difference in the earning capacity of the two spouses.
Permanent alimony is versatile in that, it can be awarded for long-term marriages that meet the statutory criteria as well as moderate-term marriages where there’s clear evidence of such a need, and the statutory criteria is met. Permanent alimony may also be awarded for short-term marriages if there’s written evidence of exceptional conditions.
Spouses that are coming out of long-term marriages are more likely to get awarded alimony because they’re in a better position to prove that they’re entitled to financial support so that they can retain the lifestyle that they were used to during the marriage. However, the amount of alimony must be reasonable so that it still leaves the payor with a comfortable net income. Also, if the payor can prove that the spouse asking for alimony is actually capable of increasing their current income, the court will take that into consideration when calculating the alimony amount.
The court will go through all of the above-mentioned factors before determining whether or not to award alimony, and at which amount.
If a spouse gets into a financial bind after filing a divorce case, the responsibility is on them to apply for an order of temporary alimony or child support. This is usually granted from the time you file the case up until the hearing and can apply to time-sharing arrangements and other types of relief as well.
If the payor continuously misses their court-ordered alimony payments, they will be held in contempt of the court and will have the amount deducted straight from their paycheck moving forward to avoid any more missed payments. Failure to pay alimony or child support may also lead to a suspended driving license, and if it’s found that the payor is unable to meet their requirements due to unemployment or being underemployed, the court may order them to pursue further training or seek new employment.
When it comes to changing the amount of child support that’s awarded, you must be able to prove that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.” This often means that the payor’s income has increased significantly, or that your own financial situation has since gotten precarious.
Florida Statute 61.14 allows for the modification of durational alimony on condition that evidence can be supplied to prove a significant change in circumstances, but even in such cases, the alimony can only be awarded for a limited duration that doesn’t exceed the term of the marriage.
The law doesn’t allow for the modification of bridge-the-gap alimony, either in duration or amount.
Florida Statute 61.14 does allow for the adjustment of rehabilitative alimony due to non-compliance with the plan set out in the court order, or due to a significant change of circumstances.
It’s important to note that durational alimony will automatically cease should one of the following circumstances occur:
- If the payee remarries
- If either party passes away
- If there’s a significant change of circumstances as defined by Florida Statute 61.14
On the other hand, rehabilitative alimony will automatically cease upon completion of or non-compliance with the plan set out in the court order, or if significant change in circumstances prevails according to Florida Statute 61.14.
Meanwhile, bridge-the-gap alimony will only cease if the payee remarries or if either party passes away.
Before the court can grant a change in a time-sharing agreement that involves minor children, evidence must be bought forth to prove that there has been a significant change in circumstances that warrants such modification.
Durational alimony will automatically come to an end if the payee remarries, if either party passes away, or if there’s a significant shift in circumstances as set out in Florida Statute 61.14.
Rehabilitative alimony will automatically come to an end if there’s been a significant change of circumstances as set out in Florida Statute 61.14, and also when the rehabilitative plan has been completed or if there has been non-compliance with the plan.
Bridge-the-gap alimony can only cease when the payee remarries or if either party passes away.
Note that in the event of a payee’s re-marriage, the court may decide to either reduce or terminate the alimony altogether depending on whether or not the recipient is in a “supportive” relationship with their new spouse. Now, there are many dynamics that the court will take into account when determining the “supportive” nature of the relationship, and this includes the couple’s financial dealings.
There are numerous ways to prove your spouse’s income if they refuse to report it themselves. For example, you can subpoena their bank records, you can testify to provide information that they’ve given you but are withholding from the court, or you can also ask other people to provide a testimony about your spouse’s income, their lifestyle and spending habits.
It’s also possible to check your spouse’s assets and even look into their credit card use with the help of an accountant. You might discover that your spouse has additional investments and has been taking vacation trips as well, while business records can be of tremendous value in terms of revealing your spouse’s spending habits.
If you can prove that the lifestyle you lead is fully paid for by your spouse, then it’s possible for the judge to conclude that your spouse is earning enough to financially help you maintain that lifestyle.
In situations where a spouse is not reporting all of their income or if there’s evidence to prove that they can earn more than they currently are, the court may calculate the alimony or child support amount according to the higher income that the spouse is capable of. However, the burden is on the payee to provide evidence of foul play such as the other spouse’s failure to report all of their income etc.
Adultery can only be relevant if you can prove that your spouse is spending marital funds that are due to you on the person that they’re committing adultery with. This is referred to as spoilage or waste of marital funds.
Experienced Fort Lauderdale Alimony Attorney
Alimony is one of the most important subjects that divorced couples have to deal with after ending their marriage, and it’s an issue that may forever impact their lives moving forward.
Fort Lauderdale divorce attorney, Kristin Padowitz, Esq., has the necessary expertise to help you navigate this contentious issue, regardless of whether you are the payee or the recipient of alimony.
Moreover, we provide flexible payment terms that make our services accessible to a wide range of clients from different economic backgrounds. Not only that but we’re centrally located next to the regional courthouse and that makes it possible for our clients to save more on parking fees and traveling expenses.
Our law firm serves our clients across a wide range of areas in South Florida, from Davie to Hollywood, Lauderhill, Pompano Beach, Lauderdale Lakes, Margate, Coral Springs, Weston, Miramar, Hallandale Beach, Pembroke Pines, Tamarac, Sunrise, Plantation and many other areas in the Fort Lauderdale region. If you’re currently dealing with a divorce case that involves alimony, child support, or another related matters and you’re in need of legal assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us. Contact the Law Office of Kristin Padowitz, P.A. and peak directly with our Fort Lauderdale divorce lawyer today.