Alimony is one of the most controversial subjects in divorce. In this post, we will give a brief introduction to the subject and hopefully clear up some misconceptions.
Under Florida law, when a couple dissolves their marriage through divorce, they must divide their marital property in a that meets the standards of equitable distribution under state law. Essentially, this means that the parties must divide any personal property from their marital property, and then divide all marital assets and debts in a way that meets standards of fairness. Courts generally start with the presumption that the division should be equal, but ultimately they must divide the property in a way that is fair. In some cases, a 50-50 split is fair. In many cases it is not. In some cases, even a very generous split would leave one party at a serious financial disadvantage.
In a fairly extreme case, if one spouse is completely disabled and unable to earn a wage on their own, their share of a divorce settlement will quickly run out after the divorce is finalized. In these cases, the disadvantaged spouse may request alimony. In some cases, an alimony agreement comes as part of the parties’ out-of-court divorce settlement. In others, a court may order the other party to pay their ex-spouse alimony.
Different types of alimony
Alimony comes in several categories, and may be permanent or temporary.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is intended to give the disadvantaged spouse time to become financially independent. Typically, this type of alimony applies to spouses who have relatively short-term needs before they can become independent.
For those whose financial setbacks are more long-term, rehabilitative alimony can help. For instance, if one spouse has given up their education in order to care for their children, they may need rehabilitative alimony for a few years, so that they can complete their degree and secure adequate employment.
Courts consider many factors before deciding whether alimony is required, including the length of the marriage and the needs and abilities of the parties. Court guidelines can be a good baseline to consider for those who are crafting their own alimony agreements. A skilled lawyer can help clients to understand their options in divorce.