Although not all states have alimony laws, Florida does, and you may find yourself subject to them. In the past, the former husband paid support to the former wife in almost all cases. Nowadays, as women have increasingly become financially independent, sometimes the court orders the wife to support the husband. At The Law Office of A. Sam Jubran, P.A., an experienced Jacksonville spousal support lawyer can help answer your questions.
Also known as alimony, spousal support is a court-ordered payment that one former spouse may have to pay to the other after their divorce. The reason for this is so that an unemployed spouse, or who earns less money than the other, won’t have to face unfair economic burdens after their marriage ends.
When Does the Court Award Alimony?
In the state of Florida, the court considers the topic of alimony only after distributing a couple’s liabilities and assets in the way it deems fairest. The court then looks at each spouse’s finances to see whether or not one should pay alimony to the other, in order to preserve that spouse’s economic stability. The court may determine that no alimony should be paid to either spouse. However, if they do determine that one of the spouses deserves spousal support, the next step is to determine how much the supporting spouse should pay the other each month.
Voluntary Spousal Support
You and your spouse can also sit down together and agree on the amount of alimony owed, as well as who pays it. This can happen if your divorce is amicable, or if you and your spouse otherwise agree on the other terms of your divorce. If you arrange suitable support this way, you must present it to the court. The judge must agree so that it becomes a part of their official court order.
How the Court Determines Spousal Support
The factors a Florida court may take into consideration to decide who owes alimony to whom, and how much, include:
- Your standard of living before you divorced.
- How long you were married.
- Your age.
- The emotional and physical conditions of you and your spouse.
- Your financial resources and your spouse’s.
- The capacity of each of you to earn an income.
- How much each of you can earn by selling your assets to produce income.
- How long it will take for the supported spouse to train or acquire education for suitable income-producing employment.
- The value of each spouse’s child-rearing, educational, and career-building efforts.
While Florida is a no-fault divorce state, the court will also factor significant spousal fault (such as infidelity or abuse) into the equation.
Courts May Award Different Types of Alimony
Florida courts may award one of several different kinds of alimony, based on your circumstances, including:
- Rehabilitative Alimony: lasts for a specific length of time and is intended to help the supported spouse develop or redevelop their work skills and financial independence. Usually, you pay this in semi-monthly or monthly installments.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: usually paid as a lump sum, or in just a few installments. It helps the payee spouse transition from marriage to single life. The payee may use it to find and pay for a new place to live, to buy a car for transportation, and similar things.
- Permanent Alimony: awards the payee spouse alimony for life or until he or she remarries. This is also paid semi-monthly or monthly.
- Durational Alimony: awarded for a limited amount of time, and paid semi-monthly or monthly.
- Lump-Sum Alimony: paid to the supported spouse in one lump sum of property or money.
How Is Alimony Paid?
To prevent the need for direct contact between divorced spouses, the supporting spouse may remit spousal support only through depositories using the State Disbursement Unit or SDU. The money is then transferred to the payee.
Spousal Support Calculator
There are no specific formulas for determining the amount of spousal support, so spousal support calculators aren’t accurate. A spousal support lawyer can the review needs of each spouse and their ability to pay.
High value divorces can be particularly complex when determining the amount of alimony. But there is no calculator that can determine exactly what will be awarded.
Determining Spouse’s Ability to Pay
The court will not award spousal support if it leaves the paying spouse with significantly less income than the person who is receiving alimony. When considering the need of the receiving spouse and the ability to pay of the other spouse, the court will use the following factors:
- Financial resources of both spouses
- All sources of income
- Earning capacity
- Absence from the workforce
- Need for educational or vocational training
- Contribution of both spouses
A spousal support lawyer can help you show the court that you need alimony or that you do not have the ability to pay. You may also need to submit information to support alimony amount.
What Happens If One Spouse Refuses to Pay?
If your alimony isn’t voluntary, then at some point you may face a situation in which your spouse refuses to pay. This is often difficult to enforce, but if it happens, you can file a court claim to force payment. This can be a costly process. But after the divorce itself, it may be the time you need legal help the most.
Modifying Spousal Support
If you have permanent alimony that needs to be modified or a form of temporary alimony that should be transitioned into permanent alimony, a spousal support lawyer can help you pursue a modification order.
It’s common for financial situations to change. Your need may increase or the need of your ex may decrease, and your alimony should be adjusted to reflect this.
In this case, you need to submit a motion to the court to change your spousal support, which requires legal documents and a hearing in court. You will also likely have to face your ex in court. In some cases, you may be able to come to an agreement with your spouse and request an order from the court based on that agreement. However, if you and your ex do not agree, then you will have to ask the court to make a modification of your alimony.
Terminating Spousal Support
Most alimony orders include specific indicators that will trigger termination of spousal support. However, there are situations where circumstances change and alimony should be terminated prior to the indicators noted in the order. In this situation, you should work with your spousal support lawyer to request a termination of spousal support.
Spousal support may be terminated when financial situations dramatically change. The person receiving alimony may have received a sum of money or the person paying may no longer have an ability to pay. The court will need to reconsider the need and ability to pay of both spouses.