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Types of Alimony

One of the very first things that people think about and associate with divorce is alimony.  This is the mechanism that ensures that the spouse with the greater amount of financial resources supports the former spouse until she or he is able to get established and support her or himself.  This type of support is available in Florida, and is critical for many people.  It is also referred to as maintenance under Florida law.

A spouse is granted alimony under Florida law, and it may be permanent, durational, or rehabilitative, i.e. it is intended to help the individual get into a position where she or he is able to cover their own expenses without needing help.  Although people have a tendency to think that alimony is something that is paid every month, it can also be awarded in the form of a lump sum or it can be a combination of a monthly payment and lump sum.  The court might take non-monetary factors into consideration when determining whether to award alimony or not.

Maintenance payments or alimony are not intended to be a punitive measure, but instead are meant to recognize that one of the spouses might have more skills and resources than the other spouse for supporting her or himself following the divorce.  Alimony helps with leveling the playing field.  In determining alimony, the duration of the marriage plays a significant role.  Marriages are classified as long, moderate or short-term.  They are divided along the following lines:

  • Short-term: A marriage lasting fewer than 7 years.
  • Moderate-term: A marriage lasting at least 7 years, but less than 17 years.
  • Long-term: A marriage lasting 17 years or more.

The different types of alimony serve different purposes:

  • Temporary alimony: Alimony awarded during a divorce proceeding.  It is also referred to as alimony pendent lite.  When the formal divorce decree is entered, temporary alimony is terminated automatically.  Another type of alimony may replace it.

  • Bridge-the-gap alimony: This type of alimony is transitional.  Its purpose is to help a spouse make the transition from being married to now being single.  The necessary funds are allocated to pay identifiable and foreseeable bills that are associated with life being re-started as a single individual.

  • Rehabilitative alimony: Sometimes a spouse needs to pursue specific vocational training or a different educational program in order to start a new career and become self-sufficient.  When a party is granted rehabilitative alimony by a court, there needs to be a specific plan included with the order.  For example, an individual who likes working with horses might decide to pursue a farrier career.  The plan would include estimated costs and amount of time to complete the program, length of apprenticeship, and length of time until the spouse believes they can become self-sufficient.  The spouse paying or receiving the alimony can petition to have the order modified if the receiving spouse significantly deviates from the plan or if circumstances change.

  • Durational alimony: This is frequently awarded in cases of a moderate or short-term marriage.  It is often used when one of the other kinds of alimony don’t fit the divorcing couple’s circumstances.  A set amount is awarded over a pre-determined length of time, but not exceeding the duration of the marriage.  So, if the divorcing couple was married for a period of two years, the durational alimony award will not be longer than 2 years.  If circumstances change significantly, either one of the spouses can file to have the award modified.  However, a modification only applies the the award’s amount and not its duration.

  • Permanent alimony: Usually this type of alimony is awarded in long and moderate-term marriages.  For short-term marriages, it is normally only available for extraordinary situations.  Permanent alimony is intended for a spouse who is unable to achieve the general needs and life necessities under the standards that have been set by the marriage.  This standard is very subjective.  The couple’s life while married will be reviewed by the court to determine what qualifies as reasonable.  An individual with extensive luxuries and staff might be awarded enough in order to reasonably maintain a lifestyle that is similar following the divorce.  There is the possibility that the permanent alimony can be modified by a party in the future should circumstances significantly change or the spouse who receives the alimony becomes involved in a relationship where she or he receives support from a non-related individual by either affinity or blood who is living with them.

Permanent, duration and bridge-the-gap alimony ends if either the receiving or paying spouse dies.  The alimony will also stop if the individual who has been receiving alimony remarries.  This is not applicable for rehabilitative alimony.

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