lt's The Law
Alimony Comes in Many Forms
My wife is suing me for divorce. When I read through her petition, I got to the end and she is asking for alimony. Not just any alimony, but all kinds of alimony like permanent, rehabilitative, lump-sum and others. It read like choices in a Chinese restaurant. Can you explain all of these different types of alimony?
Florida Statutes have been amended many times to address alimony issues. The primary statute is currently Section 61.08 of Florida Statutes. The statute provides that a court may award bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational or permanent alimony, or any combination of those alimonies. The court may award periodic payments, lump-sum payment or both.
For any alimony award, the court must consider need for support by one spouse and ability to pay by the other. If the court deems it necessary to protect an award of alimony, the court can order any party who is ordered to pay alimony to also purchase and maintain life insurance or a bond in addition to the alimony.
The statute mandates that judges consider all relevant factors in determining the type and amount of alimony and, specifically, requires consideration of the following:
a. standard of living established during the marriage
b. duration of the marriage
c. age, physical and emotional condition of each party
d. financial resources of each party
e. earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills and employability of the parties, and, when applicable, any time that would be needed to acquire sufficient education training to find appropriate employment
f. contribution of each party to the marriage, including services as a homemaker
g. responsibility each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common
h. tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, and
i. all sources of income available to either party.
Now, on to the explanation of the different types of alimony. Permanent periodic alimony is payable in installments until either party dies or the recipient remarries. It is intended to provide the necessities of life to a former spouse who lacks ability to be self-sustaining. It is often based on maintaining the spouse in the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage. It is most often awarded in a long term marriage, which is defined by statute as 17 years or longer but can be awarded for shorter term marriages if the court makes findings of special circumstances. It is modifiable, based on changed circumstances.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is awarded to assist a party in transition from being married to single. It must meet identified, legitimate short-term needs and is not to exceed 2 years. As with permanent alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony terminates upon death of either party or re-marriage of the recipient. Unlike permanent alimony, it is not modifiable.
Rehabilitative alimony is similar to bridge-the-gap, but is intended to assist the recipient in establishing capacity for self support. It must be based on a plan to redevelop previous skills or to acquire training or work experience necessary for appropriate employment. Rehabilitative alimony may be modified based upon a substantial change in circumstances, failure of the recipient to comply with rehabilitative plan or upon completion of the plan.
Durational alimony provides for periodic payments, but is not permanent and is awarded when permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate. Its purpose is to provide a party with financial support for a set time after marriage. It terminates upon death of either party or re-marriage of the recipient and may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances. The amount of time over which durational alimony is paid may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.
Lump-sum alimony is a set amount that us usually paid in one single payment, but can be payable in installments. It is perhaps the most complex type of alimony because it is not only used by judges for support of a party, but also to balance distribution of assets. If awarded for support, the recipient must show unusual circumstances requiring a non-modifiable support and that the award does not significantly harm the paying spouse's economic position. If awarded to balance property distribution, no unusual circumstances need be present. An award of lump-sum alimony is not modifiable and is not affected by death or remarriage of either party.
Alimony remains a highly contested issue in many divorce cases. Alimony issues are both emotional and financially driven. They are complex. Good legal counsel in this area is essential.
By: William G. Morris, Esquire
William G. Morris is an attorney with offices at 247 North Collier Boulevard on Marco Island, Florida. His practice covers a broad range of subjects, including civil litigation, real estate, business and corporate law, estate planning and probate, domestic relations and contracts. He writes this column periodically with respect to legal matters that frequently affect non-lawyers. The information contained in this column is not intended as legal advice and, of necessity, is generalized. For questions about specific circumstances, the reader should consult a qualified attorney.
Questions for this column can be sent to: William G. Morris, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax, (239) 642-0722 or
The Marco Island Eagle
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