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Consulting with an experienced Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney will ensure you properly understand the legal process and the obstacles you might face during your divorce. 

Trying to figure out the alimony laws of Florida are confusing and difficult to understand.  As legislation around alimony continues to evolve, divorcing couples in the State of Florida are met with significant uncertainty.  At Fixel Neave, P.A., our Fort Lauderdale alimony attorneys have extensive experience guiding clients through the full range of family law matters.  As often as possible, our Fort Lauderdale alimony attorneys attempt to resolve disputes through mediation.  It is not uncommon, however, for disagreements to be litigated in court. 

What is alimony or spousal support?

Alimony is a financial or other “in-kind” payment made by one spouse to another during the divorce process and after the divorce is concluded. Alimony is designed to pay for living expenses of the spouse who earns no money or less money.  There are many types of alimony:

Bridge-The-Gap Alimony:  This alimony award can be a few months and up to two (2) years.  Bridge-the-gap alimony is awarded to spouses who have only been married for a very short time, from several months and up to seven (7) years.  It is designed to bridge the gap from married life to single life.

Durational Alimony: This alimony award is usually awarded to spouses who have been married for than seven (7) years and up to seventeen (17) years.  Durational alimony is modifiable in amount but not in duration.  The length of durational alimony cannot exceed the years of the marriage.  For example, if a couple was married for twelve (12) years, the alimony award cannot exceed twelve (12) years absent exceptional circumstances.  However, during that alimony period, alimony can be modified either up or down to accommodate the changes or needs of the family.

Permanent Alimony: The term permanent alimony is a misnomer.  Permanent alimony refers to support paid for an extended period of time which usually reduces or terminates upon the retirement of the payor spouse.  This can be a few years, depending on the age of the spouses at the time of divorce, or it can be many years.

Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is paid to assist one spouse in retraining or to become educated and then to enter the workforce.  A plan is required and must be adhered to.  Rehabilitative alimony will terminate upon the completion of the rehabilitation plan or if the spouse receiving alimony fails to adhere to the plan.  This alimony can be award of tuition or other costs and can include financial support to cover the cost of living while being trained or re-trained.

Temporary Alimony: This type of payment is made during the divorce process.  Temporary alimony is usually designed to maintain the status quo so that the marital assets and liabilities are maintained.  Sometimes, temporary alimony is paid alone or in combination with temporary child support.

Lump-Sum Alimony: This type of alimony is exactly as it sounds.  A lump sum is provided by the payor spouse to the recipient spouse.  It is a one-time payment that is given when payments are not desirable.  For example, if a payor spouse habitually fails to pay financial obligations during the divorce process, and sufficient funds or assets are available, lump sum alimony could be awarded to circumvent the non-payment attitude.  Lump sum can be used to award an asset such as a home to one spouse.

The different types of alimony are treated differently for tax purposes.  You should always consult an accountant or tax attorney to confirm the tax consequences of the alimony type you must pay or receive.  However, the majority of alimony types are taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor spouse.  This means that the recipient must report the alimony received on his or her taxes each year and the payor spouse is permitted to deduct the alimony he or she paid each year.   There are some exceptions.  For example, lump sum alimony is not taxable.  Other types of alimony can be designated as non-taxable and non-deductible if the payor spouse does not benefit from the tax implication.  An example of this would be a payor spouse who receives non-taxable income such as disability income.  Since the payor spouse is not required to report the disability income on his or her tax return each year, if that spouse is paying alimony out of the disability income, the recipient spouse is not required to report the income on his or her taxes.

How is alimony determined?

The trend in Florida and other states is for all spouses to be self-supporting.  Most spouses are expected to re-enter the workforce if they are not working at the time of the divorce.  There are always some exceptions, and whether or not alimony will be paid or received is determined on a case-by-case basis. There are several factors that must be evaluated to determine what type of alimony a spouse may receive and for how long.  The factors include, age of each spouse, length of marriage, whether a spouse gave up a career to raise a family or the spouse’s contribution towards the marriage, the financial resources of each spouse, earning capacities of each spouse, incomes of both spouses, the lifestyle maintained by the parties during the marriage, and others.  The spouse expecting to receive alimony must prove a need for alimony.  After the need has been demonstrated, the payor spouse must have the ability to pay.   

So how is this determination made?   You and your spouse will both prepare and file a financial affidavit.  A financial affidavit is a sworn document that states your monthly income and assets and states your assets and liabilities, both marital and nonmarital.  For the recipient spouse, the need is the deficit that spouse has each month after using his or her earned income to pay expenses.  For the payor spouse, the ability to pay is the surplus that spouse has each month after paying expenses out of his or her earned income.  In most divorces, the recipient spouse’s need is more than the payor spouse’s surplus.  That means the recipient spouse will receive less that what is needed to meet all of the monthly obligations.

Sometimes a spouse will refuse to become employed, or choose not to return to work.  In that event, income may be imputed to that spouse.  The amount of income to be imputed can start at minimum wage and will increase based upon that spouse’s prior earnings within the last three (3) years or based upon what that spouse could earn if that spouse returned to work.  Often times, a vocational evaluator will be needed to assist in determining what the imputation of income could likely be.  A payor spouse can be imputed income if he or she has lost employment during the divorce process or as a part of divorce planning or for cause.  The spouse who was earning the majority of the income may not quit a job to avoid paying alimony.

Often, negotiations between spouses regarding alimony can be driven by emotion.   The Fort Lauderdale alimony attorneys at Fixel Neave, P.A., will assist you through the process.  If you have further questions regarding alimony, do not hesitate to contact us.  We accept all major credit cards as payment for services.  We can be reached by calling 954-981-2200 or by completing our online contact form.

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(954) 981-2200

12 SE 7th Street
Suite 601 
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301