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How does alimony work in Florida?

Have questions about how alimony works in Florida? We cover everything you need to know about alimony in FL here.

evident Editorial Team
March 20, 2023
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If you’re going through a divorce in Florida, you probably have a lot of questions as you navigate a stressful and challenging time. One question that often comes up is how alimony works in Florida.

Alimony laws vary by state and even the terminology can be different depending on where you are. (For instance, alimony is typically called spousal support in Ohio).

So how is alimony calculated in Florida? And what types are even available? This article provides an overview of how alimony works in Florida and everything you need to know.

Key Takeaways

What is alimony?

Alimony is financial support provided from one spouse to another during and/or after the divorce process. Though it is often called spousal support or spousal maintenance under other states' laws, Florida law still uses the term alimony.

In Florida, the amount, duration, and form of alimony payments vary on a case-by-case basis. We’ll cover this in more detail below.

Types of Alimony in Florida

Under Florida divorce law, there are five types of alimony awards. 

Courts decide what type of alimony is appropriate and whether that alimony should be awarded as a lump sum or in periodic payments, which are typically more common, depending on a couple's particular circumstances.

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony is issued during the divorce proceedings and ends when the divorce is finalized. The purpose of temporary support is to allow the lower-earning spouse to remain financially secure during the divorce process. 

Bridge-the-Gap Alimony

Florida is one of the few states that allows Bridge-the-Gap alimony awards. As the name suggests, this type of alimony is designed to help the requesting spouse meet specific needs while transitioning from marriage to being single. (E.g. if they have particular living expenses or bills to pay while they re-enter the workforce or wait for the family home to sell).

Bridge-the-gap alimony awards cannot be modified and cannot exceed two years. The award will also terminate if the paying spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries

Rehabilitative alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is the most common type of Florida alimony. These types of payments temporarily support a spouse as they acquire sufficient education or job training to allow them to obtain employment. 

The party seeking rehabilitative alimony must present a "rehabilitative plan" to the court for review to get this type of alimony. 

Durational alimony

Durational support is awarded in cases where the recipient spouse doesn't qualify for permanent alimony but needs financial assistance for a period of time following the divorce. 

This type of alimony is awarded for a definite amount of time but cannot last longer than the marriage. For example, your alimony award cannot exceed five years if you were married for five years.  

Though both are temporary forms of support, durational alimony provides support for a set period, while rehabilitative alimony aims to provide support for a spouse to obtain the necessary skills that allow them to be self-sufficient.

It is possible to modify durational support if you can demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances. 

Permanent alimony

Although rare, permanent periodic alimony is sometimes awarded in Florida. This type of alimony provides ongoing support until the requesting spouse remarries or either spouse dies. 

Scenarios in which permanent alimony may be appropriate include if the recipient spouse is disabled, elderly, or caring for a minor with special needs and thus cannot become self-supporting. Typically, permanent alimony is also more common after a long-term marriage than marriages of short or moderate duration.

How is alimony calculated in Florida?

Florida courts don’t use a set formula when determining alimony. Instead, the courts first determine whether alimony is appropriate and then calculate the details using various factors set out by law.

So first, Florida courts evaluate whether the requesting spouse has a demonstrable need for support and whether the other spouse has the ability to pay alimony. 

Second, if the court finds there is a “need and ability,” a judge will consider various factors when determining alimony in Florida, including:

  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s earning capacity, including their education and vocational skills
  • Each spouse’s financial resources, including assets and liabilities
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, whether financial or otherwise
  • Each spouse’s age, as well as their physical and emotional condition 
  • “Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties”

Judges thus have broad discretion when considering what type of alimony to award and the details of the arrangement.

Also, note that a judge may consider whether either spouse committed adultery during the marriage and how this may have influenced marital funds. (E.g. if a spouse spent money on an apartment or trips with a girlfriend or boyfriend). 

Reaching your own agreement

Keep in mind that the above factors are what a judge will consider when determining a party's alimony obligation, but you and your former spouse could reach your own agreement.

If you do, the court will typically adopt your agreement, assuming it is a reasonably fair alimony award. And doing so can save you time, money, and headache.

How long does alimony last in Florida? 

How long alimony lasts in Florida depends on the type of alimony involved.

Both temporary and rehabilitative alimony are temporary payments aimed at allowing the requesting spouse to support themselves without the assistance of their former spouse. 

Bridge-the-gap alimony awards have a two-year maximum. 

Durational alimony is influenced by the length of your marriage, but cannot exceed the length of the marriage.

Lastly, although rare, permanent awards are possible and usually only granted for longer marriages. 

When does alimony end in Florida?

Alimony in Florida typically ends either pursuant to the original order or upon the occurrence of certain events. For instance, alimony will terminate if either spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries.

Can alimony be modified in Florida? 

Florida alimony laws allow some awards to be modified depending on the circumstances. Note that bridge-the-gap alimony cannot be modified, though, and that a court can change the amount but not the length of durational alimony in Florida (barring exceptional circumstances).

For other types of alimony in Florida, if there's a substantial change in circumstances–such as the death of either party, remarriage, or if the receiving spouse enters a supportive relationship–the court can review and modify the alimony order. 

Also, note that spouses could agree in writing that neither will ask the court to revisit their alimony award.

Involuntary loss of income

An involuntary loss of income is the most common reason for modifying alimony agreements in Florida. For instance, if the paying spouse loses their job, thereby affecting their ability to continue making alimony payments under the original order. 

When considering a modification request, the courts will consider each spouse's financial circumstances at the time of the original award in comparison to their financial circumstances when the modification is requested. 

Also, note that courts do not typically consider voluntary income reductions as justification for modifying alimony agreements.

FAQs about alimony in Florida

Is alimony taxable in Florida?

If your Florida divorce was finalized after January 1, 2019, then alimony payments are not tax-deductible for paying spouses and are also not taxable income for supported spouses.

Who qualifies for alimony in Florida?

Alimony in Florida can be granted to either spouse. When determining whether to grant alimony, the courts consider if there's a need and ability. That is, a need by one spouse for financial support and the ability of the other spouse to pay. 

If a spouse qualifies to receive alimony, a judge will determine the amount, duration, and type of alimony based on several factors. 

How long do you have to be married to get alimony in Florida?

While there isn’t a minimum requirement mandating a specific length of marriage to receive alimony awards, the courts will consider the length of marriage when determining the type, duration, and amount of alimony.  

Does adultery affect alimony in Florida?

Adultery can affect alimony in Florida, but typically only if it financially impacted marital funds or property. In other words, if a spouse spent money on gifts or trips as part of carrying on an affair, a judge may consider this in calculating how much alimony to award. 

The final word on alimony in Florida

So how does alimony work in Florida? Let's recap the main takeaways. 

There are five types of alimony available in FL: temporary, rehabilitative, bridge-the-gap, durational, and permanent. The type of alimony awarded will affect details such as how long it lasts and the size of the award.

Florida courts don’t use a specific formula to calculate the amount of alimony. Instead, the courts assess whether the requesting spouse has a demonstrable need and whether the other spouse has the ability to pay. If the court finds a “need and ability,” it then determines the amount, duration, and type of alimony to award. 

Remember, though, that you and your spouse can negotiate the terms of alimony awards without awaiting a judge's determination.