When a married couple separates, one spouse may agree to provide support to help the other spouse with daily living expenses or to maintain a certain lifestyle enjoyed by the parties during the marriage. When spouses cannot agree to pay alimony or dispute the payment amounts, a court will decide whether to award alimony. In Florida, judges review the circumstances of each case and may award alimony at their discretion.
Alimony is a payment from one spouse to another for support. Separate and different from child support, alimony is not automatically awarded by the courts based on state guidelines. Each state has its own alimony rules and may award either rehabilitative or permanent alimony. Rehabilitative alimony seeks to help a spouse for a limited period. Permanent alimony awards continue until either spouse dies or the recipient spouse remarries.
Florida courts have wide discretion in deciding whether to award alimony. Judges will make this determination only after reviewing the property distribution and allocation between the spouses. Florida is an equitable distribution state. Judges in equitable distribution states attempt to divide all marital property fairly or equitably between spouses who cannot otherwise agree to an allocation. Florida courts also divide liabilities between the spouses under equitable distribution rules.
Attorneys for each spouse will conduct discovery or subpoena bank account information, W2 statements, paycheck stubs and any other relevant information necessary to determine each party’s assets. Requesting discovery allows attorneys to provide their clients with a full financial picture before deciding how much each spouse is willing to spend in court costs and attorney’s fees to contest an alimony award or to request an award.
Florida courts may award either rehabilitative or permanent alimony after dividing the couple’s assets and liabilities. The court may order either husband or wife to pay alimony. Rehabilitative alimony payments terminate once the recipient spouse is able to gain financial independence. Permanent alimony continues until the recipient remarries or either party dies. Both alimony payments, if awarded, are paid monthly or twice per month. Florida judges can also order lump sum payments.
In awarding alimony, the court may review the factors or reasons for the marriage dissolution. In Florida, adultery does not automatically preclude alimony awards, but courts may consider it when deciding whether to award alimony to an unfaithful spouse. Courts will review the standard of living that the spouses enjoyed during their marriage, each spouse’s age, health and education, each spouse’s income-earning capability and whether one spouse was responsible for raising the children and providing domestic help while the other worked, thus limiting the spouse’s opportunities to obtain an education or career advancement opportunities.
Since family laws can frequently change, you should not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice divorce or family law in Florida.