Every divorce has its share of hot-button issues, but one of the most controversial topics in many divorces is alimony. Some spouses who are ordered to pay alimony see the order as a punishment against them, but that is not the case. Instead, alimony is meant to prevent a result that would be unfair to one party in a divorce.
Under Florida law, divorcing couples must divide their marital property in a way that meets state guidelines of fairness. In cases where one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage, the dependent spouse is left at an unfair financial disadvantage at the end of the marriage. Sometimes a generous divorce settlement is enough to overcome this disadvantage, but in other cases it is not. For instance, in a case where one spouse gave up a career in order to take care of the couple’s children, this spouse will have a hard time finding work after the divorce and earning income that will allow them to enjoy a lifestyle anything like the one they enjoyed during the marriage. Meanwhile, the other spouse can continue their own career with little interruption. In such a case, a court may decide that alimony is necessary in the interests of fairness.
Types of alimony
Also known as spousal support, alimony is intended to protect a financially dependent spouse after the end of the marriage. To that end, Florida courts recognize several types of alimony: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational and permanent. These categories refer to the duration of the alimony order, and there is some overlap between them.
The category of durational alimony simply means that the the alimony order lasts for a predetermined amount of time. Bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony are intended to help the dependent spouse cover expenses until they are able to become financially independent. For instance, a court may order one spouse to pay alimony to the other for a predetermined period of time, with the expectation that the dependent spouse will become independent by the end of the period. In some cases, the alimony order is tied to an event, such as the dependent spouse’s graduation from college or a professional program.
A court’s decision whether to award alimony is based on one spouse’s need and the other spouse’s ability to pay. With this in mind, an alimony order may permanent in cases where the dependent spouse is disabled, or otherwise unable to become financially independent.
Up until now in this post, we have been talking about court-ordered alimony, but it is important to remember that most divorces today are resolved out of court. People who are settling their divorce out of court have more control over the way they divide their marital property, but they must still adhere to state standards of fairness. In some cases, this means making alimony part of the settlement.
In some cases, the parties may decide on so-called lump-sum alimony, in which one spouse satisfies the need for alimony by paying the other a specified amount in the divorce settlement.
Every divorce is different. In divorces where alimony is necessary, there are many options for designing an alimony order that meets all the guidelines of fairness.