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Alimony in Florida Divorce
When a party believes that they have a need for financial assistance from the other party, alimony can be requested. As with child support, the Court can award temporary alimony until the final divorce hearing is held, at which time a "permanent" alimony amount may be ordered. Permanent alimony may be awarded following a marriage of long duration, following a marriage of moderate duration under certain circumstances, and following a marriage of short duration if exceptional circumstances.
Alimony can be withheld from the paying parties paycheck or the party can be ordered to pay the money to Support Enforcement who will distribute it to the other party. If the party fails to pay Support Enforcement, one of their staff can testify that the payment was not made; instead of the party having to come to Court with an attorney. Also, failure to pay can result in the suspension of driving privileges. (although the court can grant a "work" permit) Lastly, if a party is unemployed or underemployed and fails to pay court ordered support, the judge can order the party to seek employment and enter a job training or work program.
Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent alimony is inappropriate. It is to provide a party with economic assistance for a set period of time following a marriage of short or moderate duration. It may not exceed the length of the marriage. Also, there is bridge the gap alimony which assists a party with legitimate, identifiable short term needs. It is to assist a party in transitioning from being married to being single. (it may not exceed two years)
It should be noted however that where alimony is terminable upon re-marriage, (which "permanent" alimony usually is) that a court may reduce or terminate the alimony when the recipient is residing with someone in a "supportive" relationship. There are numerous factors that the court will consider in deciding whether a "supportive" relationship exists, such as whether the couple hold themselves out as husband and wife, and the nature of their financial dealings.
In order to obtain alimony, there has got to be a need for assistance on the part of the requesting party and an ability to pay alimony on the part of the other party. Thus, one party may claim that they cannot pay their basic monthly bills without the help of the other. Note that if you have been receiving health insurance through your spouse's employer, that you may be eligible upon divorce to receive continued coverage. (The coverage usually lasts eighteen months or three years, although it must be paid for.)
A classic example may be the 56-year old woman who has been married for 29 years. It takes $4,500.00 per month to run the household. The husband has moved into an apartment. The wife has never earned more than $300.00 per week and the husband earns $5,000.00 per month. The Court's position may well be that this woman is entitled to economic assistance. She has grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and she will probably not be required to drastically alter it. Also, there is little likelihood that she can significantly increase her income anytime soon. (However, an award of alimony may not leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient unless there are exceptional circumstances.)
Clearly there are many cases where the answer concerning alimony is not as obvious. A good example would be the 9 year marriage where the wife has a particular skill. She has not worked in her profession for awhile and won't have any significant earnings until she is back in the work force for a few years. Courts have the discretion in such a circumstance to award rehabilitative alimony as opposed to permanent alimony. This alimony is for a specific period sufficient to allow the receiving party to finish their education or advance in the job market to the point that they can make a reasonable living and be self sufficient. It may be changed to permanent alimony in some circumstances if the party cannot accomplish their rehabilitative goals through no fault of their own.
With regard to a nine year marriage, the Court cannot grant permanent alimony unless certain statutory criteria are met. Durational alimony could be given in a nine year marriage so that a party has economic assistance for a set period of time.