When many people think of alimony, they still envision a husband handing over a large chunk of his earnings to his ex, forever. Understanding how alimony works in Florida today can reassure many about their financial future after the divorce.
The first thing you need to know is that courts do not award alimony automatically. Even when one spouse earns significantly more than the other, judges use a variety of factors to determine whether to award alimony and to set appropriate amounts and duration.
Duration of the marriage
The length of the marriage ranks among the most important factors affecting alimony decisions. Florida law designates a marriage lasting less than seven years as short-term; one lasting between seven and 17 years as moderate-term, and a duration of more than 17 years as long-term.
Ability to increase earning capacity
Courts typically also consider the ages of the spouses, their health and other issues that could prevent either from earning a living. Other important factors include ways in which each spouse contributed to the joint finances and general well-being, their relative financial positions and earning potentials and whether obtaining additional training could help a lesser-earning spouse raise his or her income level.
Generally, bad conduct by either party does not have a lot of influence on alimony decisions. The law does permit judges to factor in adultery by either party that led to the breakdown of the marriage. Judges may also choose to consider if one spouse's bad conduct contributed to the other's inferior financial situation; for example, whether a spouse dissipated marital assets.
Temporary alimony more common than permanent
In most cases, Florida courts award alimony for a period of time or for a specific purpose such as obtaining further education so as to allow the recipient to gain the ability to live independently. Permanent alimony can be more likely after a moderate or long-term marriage where the court sees real barriers to the recipient's ability to independently achieve a standard of living similar to that of the marriage.