Question: One of my friends got divorced and was awarded permanent alimony. Another friend got something called rehabilitative alimony. Can you explain the different types of alimony?
Answer: Alimony is addressed in Section 61.08 of Florida Statutes. That statute provides that alimony may be bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, permanent or any combination. The statute mandates the court consider all relevant factors in determining an alimony award, including duration of the marriage, age and physical condition of the parties, standard of living during the marriage and financial resources of each party. The Statute also defines and explains the different types of alimony.
Permanent alimony is the most common. Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage. The alimony is awarded to the party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs after divorce. Permanent alimony ends with death of either party or remarriage of the recipient. It can be modified if circumstances arise.
Courts like permanent alimony, in part, because it can be modified when circumstances change. Other types of alimony are not so easily modified.
Permanent alimony may be awarded in a long term marriage. It may also be awarded in a moderate term marriage if the award is appropriate under the circumstances. It can only be awarded in a short term marriage, if there are exceptional circumstances (such as illness). The statute creates a presumption that a short term marriage is less than seven (7) years, a moderate term marriage is between seven (7) years and seventeen (17) years and a long term marriage is more than seventeen (17) years.
Durational alimony is similar to permanent alimony, but ends after a set period of time. The statute makes durational alimony appropriate for short or moderate term marriages. Durational alimony ends with death of either party or remarriage of the party receiving the alimony. Durational alimony can also be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstance, as with permanent alimony. Length of durational alimony may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self support. It is generally awarded to provide for education or training that will allow the recipient to earn a living. It is modifiable.
Bridge-the-gap alimony may also be awarded. Bridge-the-gap alimony is intended to assist a party by providing support for a smooth transition from marriage to single status. A party requesting bridge-the-gap alimony must show a legitimate identifiable short term need and the award may not exceed two (2) years. Bridge-the-gap alimony ends with death of either party or remarriage of the recipient. Bridge-the-gap alimony is not modifiable.
Although the statute does not mention it, courts can also award lump sum alimony. Lump sum alimony is an award of fixed value, most often to be paid at one time. It can be awarded to provide support or to balance property distribution. Once it is awarded, it is final and non-modifiable, but if awarded based upon agreement of the parties the agreement can make the lump sum modifiable.
Lump sum alimony is really a hybrid, containing elements of both traditional alimony and property distribution. If awarded in part as a substitute for traditional alimony, recipient must show need and ability to pay by the other party. If used to balance property distribution, it must be justified based upon that distribution and ability to pay by the paying spouse. Lump sum alimony can be awarded as a dollar amount or in the form of property.
Alimony issues can be complex. Circumstances of the parties, lifestyle during marriage and a host of other factors can be relevant. The facts of each case will affect decision as to alimony award. An experienced attorney will be able to provide specific advice addressing alimony factors and issues in any particular case.