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. This is typically a monthly amount of money that is paid by one former spouse to the other. But there can also be other components such as health insurance, uncovered medical expenses, and life insurance to insure the continuation of alimony.
There are several different types of alimony which are designed to fund various types of needs. Starting at the heavy end there is permanent alimony which is paid forever — or until circumstances change, the payor dies, or the recipient either gets married or lives in a marriage-like relationship (legally referred to as a supportive 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 alimony. This alimony is awarded for no longer than the duration of the marriage.
The third type of alimony is rehabilitative alimony. This type of alimony is designed to assist the recipient spouse in becoming rehabilitated back into the work force or to rehabilitate them from a lower-paying job to a higher-paying job. Rehabilitative alimony can include funding for paying education or retraining expenses. Rehabilitative alimony can be paid in combination with other types of alimony such as permanent alimony.
The fourth and last type of alimony is bridge-the-gap alimony. This type of alimony is paid for not more than two years and is designed to, as the name implies, help the recipient bridge the gap from being married to being divorced and financially on their own.
This is the general concept of why alimony is paid:
When two people get married they often enter into a business transaction, though they may not fully realize it at the time. If you look at the traditional marriage, parties often make the following type of deal:
One party says, “Together we are going to have a division of labor,” and the other party agrees. “Together we are going to establish and run a business called the Great American Family. I (which traditionally was the husband), am going to be the primary breadwinner. I am going to earn most of the money. I am going to develop my career. I am going to bring home the bacon, so to speak.”
The other party 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 for them. I’m going to bear and raise children. I’m going to keep up the house. I’m going to run your social life.” The list goes on and on. “I will do those types of the divisions of labor, and lo and behold, the two of us will create and sustain the Great American Family.”
Well then, perhaps twenty years later they decide that the Great American Family (their business) is going to be dissolved. It would sometimes be unfair to simply divide the assets in half and have each partner go their way. One partner has developed a career over the last twenty years and can earn lots of money, eventually retire, and do all those things that career-path people can do. Meanwhile, the other partner finds themselves in mid-life or even late-life with few employment skills. That person can only perhaps get either no job or a minimum-wage job, or some other menial type of employment where they will never have the kind of lifestyle that was previously available. As the law often states: “they will pass from prosperity to misfortune“. If the partners do not have a large net worth to divide, this would be a really unfair division of the “Great American Family” business.
To combat this general type of scenario, the concept of alimony is used to help equalize the playing field for people who are dissolving their Great American Family business. Of course, we know that the concept of The Great American Family business has changed dramatically over the years, though the general concept remains — including some people who still enter into that deal, and many of the older folks who still run that same business. Alimony can be used as a great equalizer to encourage people to raise children within the Great American Family and have some reward for doing so should the business partnership dissolve later in life.
It is important to note that alimony can be awarded for many other scenarios, as one example where there are no children born of the marriage. What is needed for an alimony award is a need for the money coupled with an ability to pay the money along with a sufficient consideration of the alimony factors listed in the alimony statute.
How CAN AN ATTORNEY ASSIST IN THE DETERMINATION OF ALIMONY?
First of all, the determination of whether alimony is warranted in a case, and then how much, and for how long, is partly a discretionary call by a court. It is not always determined by hard-and-fast rules. There are often close calls. That said, there is an alimony statute found in chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes that lists those factors a court must consider and mention when making any alimony award. These factors should thus also be considered by two people trying to settle an alimony claim. These factors are listed as A through J in the statute, the last of which is “any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties,” making it quite a wide-open factor.
This is one of the most important family law areas where you need advice from an experienced alimony attorney who knows the law, knows your facts, knows how to fit your facts into the law, and knows how judges generally rule in this partly discretionary area. After analyzing your facts and the law your attorney can provide you with advice on what to demand. This includes not only the basic money obligation, but the other potential components of alimony such as health insurance and life insurance. Your attorney should help you incorporate these alimony needs into an agreement or an argument before the court. There are many options including the amount, the duration, and whether it is modifiable or non-modifiable.
If either party remarries, does the alimony end or change?
The remarriage of the recipient of alimony in most situations terminates the alimony. Even if you receive permanent alimony, your remarriage will cause it to end. The remarriage of the payor typically does not affect alimony. Then there is the scenario where a recipient spouse begins living or cohabitating with another romantic partner in a marriage-like relationship referred to in Florida law as a “supportive relationship“. This should be fully discussed and dealt with before signing any agreement or going to court.
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. Courts typically make certain decisions in a certain logical order. A court will first decide the issue of time-sharing with children. Typically after that, courts divide the assets and liabilities (know as equitable distribution). Next courts determine the issue of alimony. Only then do courts determine the issue of child support. Because child support is based upon a formula the court must determine the inputs to the formula prior to using the formula. One of the inputs is the net monthly income of each party. If alimony is ordered to be paid by one party to the other, in the formula you pretend that the recipient of alimony earned the alimony as if they were working, and you pretend that the payor of alimony never earned the alimony. So child-support does not affect alimony, instead alimony affects child support.
However, if you are talking about child support paid due to a prior divorce or paternity action, i.e., someone who had children prior to this marriage, then any child support paid for those prior children is money that is not available when determining alimony. It is typically deducted from the alimony payor’s income when determining alimony.
Can you give an example of someone the Anton Legal Group helped?
We had one client who had been married for approximately thirty years and she wanted to terminate 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 started a successful business and built quite a career. Not only did she receive half of the marital assets, but she also received permanent alimony which put her in a position of being able to live a similar standard of living after the marriage as she did during the marriage. She lives in the same house and she is happy earning a small amount of money in her creative little business. The children spend lots of time with both parents at 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 and resolve in a dissolution of marriage action, and it is difficult for at least three separate groups of reasons.
First, it is often difficult to financially figure out what the alimony award should be by applying the myriad of facts involved in a case to the somewhat complex law that determines the result. The law is both statutory (part of the Florida Statutes) and case law (the analysis of appealed Florida alimony court decisions which help interpret the statutes). So, applying the facts to the law can be a challenge.
Second, there is often the difficult emotional side to negotiating an alimony award in the hopes of avoiding a contested trial. Many payors of alimony simply hate the concept of a paying a continuing monthly support obligation to their former spouse. Sometimes they are ok with dividing the assets but not this continuing obligation. This is sometimes dealt with by using a large lump sum payment if affordable. Conversely, sometimes recipients feel they are emotionally entitled to alimony due to their unappreciated sacrifices during the marriage coupled with their need for continuing financial assistance. However, if there is insufficient ability to pay, this otherwise reasonable position or emotional demand may be both impractical and difficult to secure.
Lastly, because the amount alimony, unlike child support with its formula driven, is often difficult to predict, it is harder to settle. Even if both sides agree that it is an alimony case, the amount and duration of the payment is often hotly contested.
The best way to understand each side of the alimony issue is to both fundamentally understand the law and to have significant experience spanning many years. It also helps to have some grasp of financial planning and the realities of running a business and of the local job market.
Contact Spousal/Tampa Alimony Lawyers
Our firm has worked on alimony cases for more than thirty years. We have seen many alimony scenarios and how they played out. That experience along with 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 most other law practices.
Contact our experienced alimony attorneys at 813-443-5249.