Alimony – Can You Afford It, and Does Your Spouse Need It?

The most divisive topic in divorce is alimony. Most individuals despise the idea of paying an ex-spouse money for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about alimony. This article discusses the two most critical factors in alimony – can the payor spouse afford alimony and does the recipient spouse need alimony.

The purpose of alimony

The purpose of alimony is to allow the other spouse to maintain their lifestyle after the divorce.

In an ideal situation, both spouses keep the lifestyle they grew accustomed to during the marriage; however, Florida law recognizes that goal is nearly impossible. Typically, each spouse can expect a reduced lifestyle following a divorce, and absent a documented disability, each spouse must be full-time employed.

Courts and lawyers often use the terms “lifestyle” or “standard of living” interchangeably when

discussing alimony. Lifestyle is simply the way the couple lived in the last few years of their marriage, including how their money was spent. Lifestyle considers the assets the couple owned and maintained (vehicles, homes), vacations taken, medical needs, personal care, etc.

Bearing in mind the marital lifestyle, the court then considers the recipient spouse’s need for

support, compared to the payor spouse’s ability to pay support. While one spouse may be unable to pay for their previous lifestyle, the other spouse may also lack the income necessary to pay for both households. 

Considerations for alimony

Section 61.08, Florida Statutes sets forth other considerations, which include, but are not limited to:

  1. Each spouse’s ability to earn income.
  2. Documented medical issues which prohibit or reduce a spouse’s ability to work, or which increases their financial needs.
  3. Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including a spouse who left their career to raise the parties’ children.

Not considered for alimony

From case law, there are things that will NOT be considered when awarding alimony, such as:

  1. Payment of expenses for adult children. The law requires you to support yourself and your spouse before any other adults.
  2. Savings. Florida law does not allow alimony to be a form of savings for the recipient spouse.

The court will also consider the length of the marriage. When a marriage lasts more than 17 years, it is presumed that one spouse will pay the other alimony. Comparatively, when a marriage is younger than 7 years, it is presumed that neither spouse will pay alimony. Marriages between 7 and 17 years carry no presumption. A presumption is just that – the court may still award or deny alimony based on other factors, most usually a spouse’s need and the other’s ability to pay!

Alimony is not a simple equation but is instead very fact specific. If you have questions about

your risk of paying alimony or your right to receive alimony, contact our office at (850) 694-1411 to schedule your initial consultation.

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