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Am I eligible for alimony?

Like other Florida residents getting a divorce, you might be worried about making ends meet. If you earn less money than your spouse earns or stayed home with the children, Florida provides for an award of alimony if the court finds it appropriate.

What does the court look for to determine whether alimony is appropriate?

The court reviews certain factors regarding your need for alimony and assesses your spouse's ability to pay. At a minimum, the judge looks for the following factors:

  • Duration of your marriage
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Financial resources of each of you (all sources of income)
  • Mental and physical condition of each of you
  • Age of each of you
  • Earning capacity of both parties (current and potential future)
  • Property and debts of both parties
  • Parental responsibilities, if any
  • Contributions made by each party during the marriage (i.e. childcare, education, homemaking, etc.)
  • Tax implications of the award
  • Any other factors relevant to your circumstances

The court also retains the ability to require the paying party to purchase a life insurance policy, hold back assets or otherwise secure the amount of alimony.

How long does alimony last?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that alimony lasts for life. Courts only award lifetime alimony under certain conditions. More often, it falls within one of the three types of alimony:

  1. Rehabilitative alimony: This type gives the receiving party the opportunity to pursue additional education, training or work experience. In the alternative, the recipient receives the opportunity to redevelop skills or credentials. When applying for this, you need to present a plan to the court. Termination occurs with a significant change in circumstances or when upon completion or non-compliance of the plan.
  2. Bridge-the-gap alimony: This type lasts for no more than two years. You must identify short-term needs to the court. If either party dies or the recipient remarries, it terminates. The duration and amount are fixed and not modifiable.
  3. Durational alimony: This type lasts for a specified amount of time if you need ongoing support, but not permanent periodic alimony. It terminates upon death of either of you or if you remarry. A substantial change in circumstances might warrant a modification or termination, but the duration does not change.

Exploring every possible permutation of factors leading to an award of alimony is not possible in this forum. Gathering the appropriate evidence and presenting it to the court often requires advice and assistance as well. Considering its importance, attempting to obtain it alone could come at a risk. Furthermore, the area of family law changes periodically. For instance, reform of the current law remains a topic for the state legislature, and if changes happen, your experienced attorney can make the appropriate adjustments for them.

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