Whether or not a spouse is liable to provide support for a spouse during and after marriage is embodied in the law of maintenance and alimony. These concepts are embodied in three Florida statutes. Section 61.08, F.S., as explained by case law, provides the general rules for such a determination.
The major criteria is the need of one spouse and the ability to pay of the other spouse, but all statutory criteria must be considered. These criteria include but are not limited to:
(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, the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
(e) 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) All sources of income available to either party.
(h) Adultery or misconduct economically impacting the marriage.
The court may consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
It is not permissible to determine a case on a single factor analysis. All factors must be considered.
There are four different types of alimony available under Florida law:
1) Permanent Periodic Alimony
2) Rehabilitative Alimony
3) Bridge The Gap Alimony (not recognized in 5th DCA (Central Florida)
4) Lump Sum Alimony
The purpose of permanent periodic alimony "is to provide for the needs and necessities of life for a former spouse as they were established during the marriage of the parties."
Permanent periodic alimony is used to provide the needs and the necessities of life to a former spouse as they have been established by the marriage of the parties. The two primary elements to be considered when determining permanent periodic alimony are the needs of one spouse for the funds and the ability of the other spouse to provide the necessary funds. The criteria to be used in establishing this need include the parties' earning ability, age, health, education, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living enjoyed during its course, and the value of the parties' estates.
Permanent alimony is usually used in long term marriages with significant earnings differences, but is not excluded from shorter marriages, particularly where there are children or other significant impacts on the dependent spouse from the marriage. It is generally a periodic payment for an indefinitie period of time terminating on the death of either party or the remarriage of the dependent spouse. It can be modified if there is a significant change of circumstances effecting the need or ability to pay of the parties which is involuntary and unexpected.
Rehabilitative alimony is used to restore a spouse to the ability of self support. It generally involves periodic payments for a period of time to assist the dependent spouse in achieving independence. To obtain rehabilitative alimony there must be a plan which shows how independence will be achieved and the amount of support needed. Rehab alimony plans often include some educational or job training component. It can also be modified if there is a significant change of circumstances effecting the need or ability to pay of the parties which is involuntary and unexpected.
If the dependent spouse makes a good faith effort at rehabilitation but fails, the rehab alimony can be extended for a longer period of time or converted to permanent alimony.
The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th DCA’s have recognized a special short term alimony called "Bridge the Gap" Alimony. This award usually provides a lesser able spouse in a short term marriage payments for a short period of time to allow them to bridge their return to self support.
If you live in Central Florida, this concept has not been recognized and the Supreme Court has never addressed the issue.
Some authorities have said that Bridge the Gap Alimony is just a name for a form of lump sum alimony.
Lump sum alimony is the payment of a definite sum, either in a lump payment or in a series of periodic payments. This form of alimony differs from all others because it continues for the entire term regardless of changes in circumstances. It is non modifiable. Payments continu, even after the death of the parties until the full lump sum has been paid.