When judges and child support hearing officers determine what amount of child support a parent should pay, they have a formula to help guide them to a proper child support amount. These guidelines take into account each party’s income, the amount of time a child spends with each party, and the amount of money each party spends on healthcare and daycare for the child.
So does Florida have any similar guidelines to help a judge determine a proper amount of alimony?
To the chagrin of many, Florida does not have alimony guidelines.
Instead, judges must go through a multi-faceted analysis as set forth in section 61.08 of the Florida Statutes.
First, they must determine whether one party has an actual need for alimony and the other party has the ability to pay for alimony.
Once this threshold determination is made, the judge must determine which type of alimony to award. There are four basic types of alimony:
- Permanent Periodic Alimony: This is the type of alimony you hear the most about, but which is the least likely to be awarded. It is generally reserved for marriages that have lasted 17 years or more and, as the name suggests, can last for the payor or payee’s lifetime. However, in most cases, permanent periodic alimony can be modified (and sometimes even terminated) if there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the alimony was awarded.
- Durational Alimony: This type of alimony is usually reserved for marriages that have lasted greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, however it may sometimes also be awarded in short-term marriages. This type of alimony may be awarded for an amount of years equal to the length of the marriage, but no longer (so, for example, if the marriage lasted 10 years, durational alimony can be awarded for up to 10 years). The amount of this type of alimony may be modified or terminated if there has been a substantial change in circumstances (see link above for further explanation), however the length of durational alimony will only be modified under exceptional circumstances.
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony: Bridge-the-gap alimony has a simple purpose: to help a spouse transition from being married to being single. It is a short-term solution, and may not be ordered to last for more than two years. Bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable in amount or duration, although it terminates upon the death of either party.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is a short-term alimony which helps a spouse gain (or re-gain) skills and training to be able to support himself or herself. For a judge to order rehabilitative alimony, there must be a specific plan which sets forth how the party will become self-supportive (for example, by going through medical school or gaining a paralegal degree at a community college). This type of alimony may be modified or terminated if there has been a substantial change in circumstances, if the party does not comply with the rehabilitative plan, or upon completion of the rehabilitative plan.
So, once a judge determines the type of alimony, he or she must then decide the amount of alimony. At this point, the judge goes through an in-depth analysis of the following factors:
(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
As you can see, there are no straight-forward guidelines to help you determine an appropriate alimony award. Accordingly, if you are involved in a case in which alimony may be awarded, modified, terminated, or enforced, you should seriously consider hiring an attorney.
If you have questions regarding alimony and you would like to schedule a consultation with a Tampa Bay alimony attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our online form.