In Florida, Courts have the power to award alimony in the dissolution of marriage proceedings. Florida recognizes the following types of alimony: (1) bridge-the-gap; (2) rehabilitative; (3) durational; or (4) permanent in nature or any combination of these forms of alimony. See Florida Statute 61.08.
What do you need to prove to be entitled to alimony in Florida?
The criteria for an award of alimony is a need by one spouse, and the ability to pay by the other. Is there a need for alimony by one spouse, and does the other spouse have the ability to pay? If the answer to these questions is YES, then you may be entitled to an award of alimony.
You must request for alimony in your divorce petition, in order for the Court to consider it as part of the action.
Types of Alimony in Florida
We will go through the different types of alimony awards in a moment. But first, let’s talk about a factor Judges consider when deciding on what type of alimony to award a spouse during the dissolution of marriage proceedings.
For one, the length of the marriage is a factor. In determining alimony, it is presumed that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.
Here’s a closer look at each type of alimony:
1. Bridge-the-Gap Alimony
Bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse in making the transition from being married to being single. This type of alimony is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is properly awarded when a spouse is employed, has more than adequate employment skills, and needs nothing to be “rehabilitated” to, other than to ease his or her transition from a married to a single status. See Williams v. Williams, 904 So. 2d 488 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005).
An award of bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. the length of an award may not exceed 2 years.
Although bridge-the-gap alimony is statutorily a maximum of two years and terminates upon remarriage of the recipient spouse or death of the provider of the support, spouses may contract for bridge-the-gap alimony in a marital settlement agreement for longer periods. See Taylor v. Lutz, 134 So. 3d 1146 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014) (upholding a parties’ marital settlement agreement that provided three years of nonmodifiable bridge-the-gap alimony to the former wife, despite the former wife’s remarriage).
2. Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a spouse 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.
It is important to remember that a person is not self-supporting simply because he or she has a job and income. Bible v. Bible, 597 So. 2d 359 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992). The standard of living must be compared with the standard of living established during the course of the marriage. Lanier v. Lanier, 594 So. 2d 809 (Fla. 1st DCA 1992)
Courts have distinguished rehabilitative alimony from bridge-the-gap alimony, reasoning that if a spouse needs to develop job skills to become self-supporting, an award of rehabilitative alimony should be made instead of bridge-the-gap alimony if the requesting spouse was otherwise qualified for an award of rehabilitative alimony. See Williams v. Williams, 904 So. 2d 488, 491 (Fla. 3d DCA 2005); see also Green v. Green, 672 So. 2d 49, 51–52 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996).
There must be a specific and defined rehabilitative plan included as a part of any order awarding rehabilitative alimony.
3. Durational Alimony
Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. The purpose of durational alimony is to provide a spouse with economic assistance for a set period of time. This type of alimony may be awarded in marriages of short or moderate duration or following a long-term marriage where there is no ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.
An award of durational alimony instead of permanent alimony is inappropriate for the spouse of a moderate-term marriage if he or she proves that he or she lacks the actual capacity for self-support and the potential to develop that capacity. Kruse v. Levesque, 192 So. 3d 1263 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016).
For example, if the spouse proves that he or she is physically disabled and/or unable to work due to health conditions that developed during the parties’ marriage, an award of durational alimony is inappropriate. Kruse v. Levesque, 192 So. 3d 1263 (Fla. 2d DCA 2016). In a case such as that, permanent alimony should be appropriate.
An award of durational alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.
4. Permanent Alimony
Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were while married established to a spouse that lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life following a divorce.
This type of alimony may be awarded following a long-term marriage, if appropriate. Permanent alimony may also be awarded in short-term marriages if there are written findings of exceptional circumstances.
A Court making an award of permanent alimony must make a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the parties’ circumstances. See Florida Statute 61.08(8).
An award of permanent alimony terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony. An award of permanent alimony requires specific findings of fact. See Hua v. Tsung, 222 So. 3d 584 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017).
Permanent alimony is improper if a spouse who requests alimony fails to show that he or she is permanently unable to become self-sustaining.
A spouse may also request for temporary support while the divorce is pending.
The legal process can get difficult, which is why we always recommend that you seek the assistance of counsel; or at least have a consultation. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today to review the issues of your case, the legal options you may have, and certain rights that pertain to your unique situation.
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