What is spousal support or alimony?
Alimony is typically a monthly, or other periodic payment of money from one spouse who has the ability to pay it, to the other spouse who has the need for it, assuming the other facts of the case support such an award.
Alimony can have many different components. There is the basic financial obligation everybody thinks of when they think of alimony. Typically, a monthly chunk of money is paid by one to the other, but there can be other components too: health insurance, uncovered medical expenses, life insurance to insure the continuation of it, etc….
Several different types of alimony meet various types of needs. Permanent alimony, starting at the heavy end, is typically paid forever — or until circumstances change, the payor dies, or the recipient either gets married or lives in a marriage-like relationship. Permanent alimony is modifiable unless it is specifically agreed to by the parties to be non-modifiable.
The second type of alimony is durational. This alimony is awarded for no longer than half the duration of the marriage.
Going down the scale of depth, we would say the third type is rehabilitative alimony that is paid by one spouse to assist the other spouse in becoming rehabilitated back into the work force or to rehabilitate them from a lower-paying job to a higher-paying job. For example: paying school expenses. Rehabilitative alimony, can be paid in combination with other types of alimony.
Then there is also “Bridge-the-Gap” alimony, which is alimony paid for not more than two years to help the recipient bridge the gap from being married to being financially on their own and divorced.
This is the general concept of why alimony is paid:
When two people get married, in Florida or pretty much anywhere, they really enter into a business deal, though they may not realize it. If you look at the traditional marriage, they make the following deal:
One party says, “I am going to have a division of labor with you,” and the other party agrees. “Then we are going to run a business called the Great American Family. I,” which used to be just the husband traditionally, “I’m going to be the primary breadwinner, I’m going to earn most of the money. I’m going to develop my career. I’m going to bring home the bacon, so to speak.”
The other side says, “Great, you do that, and I’m going to do a lot of the other things which you are going to help me with, but I will be primarily responsible. I’m going to bear and raise children. I’m going to keep the house up. I’m going to run your social life.” The list goes on and on. “And I will do those types of the divisions of labor, and lo and behold, the two of us will create the Great American Family.”
Well then, perhaps twenty years later they decide that the Great American Family is going to be dissolved, that is their business. It would sometimes be unfair to simply divide the assets in half and have each go their way.
One party has developed a career over the last twenty years, and can earn lots of money, retire, and do all those things that career-path people can do. The other is finding themselves in mid-life or even late-life with few employment skills. That person could only perhaps get either no job or a minimum-wage job, or some other menial type of labor where they will never have the kind of lifestyle that the other party had. If they do not have a tremendous net worth to divide, it would be a really unfair division of the family business.
Because of that, entered the concept of alimony to help equalize the playing field for people who are dissolving their business of the Great American Family. Of course, we know that the concept of The Great American Family business has changed dramatically over the years, though there are still relics of it left — including some people who still enter into that deal, and many of the older folks who still run that same business. Therefore, the alimony can be used as a great equalizer to encourage people to raise children with the Great American Family and have some reward for doing so should the business partnership break up later in life.
How is an attorney necessary or how can they help determine alimony amounts?
First of all, the determination of whether alimony is warranted in a case and then how much, and for how long, is a very big discretionary call on behalf of a court. It is not determined by hard-and-fast rules. There is, in fact, an alimony statute found in chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes that lists those factors a court considers when making an alimony award, which should also be considered by two people trying to settle an alimony award. Those factors are A through J, the last of which is “any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties,” so it is a wide-open factor.
This is one of the most important areas where you need advice from an experienced attorney who knows the law, knows your facts, knows how to fit your facts into the law, knows how judges generally rule in this discretionary area, and can provide you with advice on what to demand — not only the basic obligation, but the other components of alimony like health insurance, life insurance, and such. Your attorney also will help you incorporate those words into an agreement where you have lots of options including the amount, the duration, whether it is modifiable or non-modifiable.
If you are going to put in words that are modifiable or non-modifiable, those are really important words, and whether it will apply should you enter into a marriage-like relationship, if you are the recipient, and so on.
That is one of the most important areas to have input from an attorney in both the determination of amounts and how to put it into words, and, if you and your spouse cannot agree, how you can present your alimony issue to a court in such a way that it is not only persuasive, but of course, that is admissible into evidence.
If either party remarries, does the alimony end or change?
The remarriage of the recipient of alimony in almost every situation terminates the alimony. Even if you were to receive permanent alimony, your remarriage would terminate it. That is the way alimony generally works. On a very rare occasion, a judge can tweak that a little bit, but that is very rare.
When a judge does not make the decision, and two people decide, alimony still by definition terminates upon remarriage with certain exceptions that you can put in there for things like rehabilitative alimony where it may not terminate upon remarriage. But, in general, remarriage of the recipient, not the payor, terminates alimony.
If a person is receiving child support from the other person, does that affect how much alimony is then given as well?
It is actually the opposite. You make certain decisions in a certain order. The court would first decide the issue of time-sharing with children. They would then, after that, determine the issue of alimony. And after that, they would determine the issue of child support. When determining the issue of child support, one of the questions is, “How much does each side make,” because child support is a formula, and if the alimony is payable by one side to the other, in that formula, you pretend that the alimony recipient earned the alimony as if they were working, and the alimony payor never earned the income. So child-support does not affect alimony, but alimony may affect child support.
However, if you are talking about child support paid from a prior marriage, someone who had children in a prior marriage, not of this marriage, then any child support paid for those prior children is money that is not available when determining alimony.
Can you give an example of someone the Anton Legal Group helped?
We had one client who had been married for about thirty years, and it was actually she who wanted to get out of the marriage. She had stayed at home and raised the children for the entire duration of the marriage. At the time of the divorce, the children were all in their twenties and early thirties. She was really only capable of earning minimum wage. Her husband, during the marriage, had gone out and started a business, built up quite a career, and had the strong business. So, not only did she get half of the marital assets, but she also got permanent alimony which put her in a position to be able to live a similar standard of living after the marriage as she did during the marriage.
She still receives it today. She lives in a similar house, and she is happy, and she earns a little bit of money. It is a fair amount of alimony and lives a good standard of living as still does her husband, and her children spend lots of time with both of them in their separate houses.
Why should someone choose the Spousal Support Attorneys at Anton Legal Group to help them with their alimony?
Alimony is one of the most difficult areas to determine in a dissolution of marriage action, and it is difficult for at least two separate groups of reasons.
Reason one is that it is technically difficult to financially figure out what the award should be by applying the myriad of facts involved in the case to the complex law that adjudicates those facts and turns it into an end result. So, it is a technically legal, really difficult concept to implement.
Then there is another whole angle of determining an alimony obligation. It is also sometimes either equally important, or even more important: the emotional side.
Recipients sometimes feel they are emotionally entitled to alimony whether the law supports them or not. Payors of alimony sometimes feel absolutely compelled to refuse to provide any alimony under any circumstances to the other side who they dislike even though the law clearly is going to award it. Trying to bridge both of those gaps, the emotional gap and the technical legal gap, and understanding both of them, and how they interplay, is a real challenge for legal practitioners on both sides of the table.
The best way to understand each of those sides is to both fundamentally understand the law and to have a tremendous amount of experience having seen hybrids of the same scenarios over and over, through many, many years as the law and the fact of the American Family change.
Contact Tampa Alimony Lawyers
Our firm has done this for more than thirty years. We have seen many alimony scenarios and how they played out. That experience along with the knowledge and the fact that we are primarily a family law firm, and have always been one, makes this firm better suited to deal with the issue of alimony than almost any other that practices in this area.
Contact our experienced alimony attorneys at 813-443-5249.