Are you involved in a divorce or separated from your spouse? Do you want
to know if you have a right to ask for alimony or if you are going to
be ordered to pay alimony? Alimony, usually referred to as spousal support,
is the payment of money made from one spouse to the other for upkeep and
maintenance toward living as part of a divorce or during separation. Alimony
can be awarded to either spouse who requests it and is discretionary if
left up to a court. Some frequently asked questions are:
1. What if we have money, property and debts, does that mean the court
is going to award alimony? Before deciding on alimony, the money, property and debts of the marriage,
known as the assets and liabilities, are fairly divided between the spouses.
In practice, this means the spouse requesting alimony may no longer need
alimony because they received money or property as part of the divorce
that brought them to a similar financial position with the other spouse.
Alternatively, the court can give both property from the marriage and
alimony to the same spouse because of the difference in the existing earning
abilities between the spouses due to the requesting spouse remaining out
of the workforce to stay home and care for the children during the marriage.
2. What does the court consider in deciding to award alimony? The court is required to make two separate determinations when deciding
to award alimony: 1) whether the requesting spouse is entitled to alimony
and 2) what amount to award and in which form. The court considers the
financial need of the requesting spouse, the ability of the non-requesting
party to pay, and the standard of living established during the marriage.
Because these factors are open to interpretation, the spouses can choose
to negotiate alimony or make arguments to the court for or against alimony.
3. Does alimony depend on the length of my marriage? The length of the marriage can affect alimony. There is a presumption
in favor of alimony in long-term marriages and against alimony in short-term
4. How much alimony can the court award? Florida does not have specific guidelines to determine the amount of alimony
to order in each case, like with child support. The court considers the
circumstances between the spouses to determine a fair amount of alimony.
Once an amount is determined, the court determines in what form to give
the alimony. The court can order alimony on a temporary or permanent basis
and payments to be made periodically, in lump sums, or both. Temporary
alimony is paid over a shorter period of time as compared to permanent
alimony which is paid until the remarriage of the receiving spouse or
the death of either party.
5. Will the court award alimony if my spouse was unfaithful during the
marriage or is currently living with someone else? The fact adultery occurred in and of itself does not entitle the faithful
spouse to alimony. Since Florida is a no-fault divorce state, it does
not matter that one party was unfaithful during the marriage and it is
actually improper for an attorney to plead to the court on behalf of their
client claiming adultery. However, allegations of adultery can be relevant
in a divorce or during separation when the adultery causes waste of marital
assets or causes a financial hardship for the faithful spouse. Also, when
either spouse leaves the marital home and begins living with someone else
or if a companion moves into the marital home during the absence of the
other spouse, the live-in companion’s financial help may be considered
additional income because they reduced living expenses.
6. Are there any other considerations with alimony? Alimony given during the divorce or separation raises questions of tax
consequences. The spouses should consider whether paying alimony can be
claimed as a deduction or if receiving alimony will have to be reported
as income for purposes of their tax returns.
Dissolutions and separations are difficult and can leave the parties financially
unbalanced. Being fully informed about the available options and understanding
the law can help determine if alimony is appropriate in your case.