What Is Spousal Support?
Spousal support, or alimony, consists of payments one spouse makes to the other during or after a divorce. It is governed by state law. When it is awarded, alimony is given to the lower-income spouse to help them maintain the same standard of living as before the separation. It can help compensate for one spouse’s lower earning potential or net worth created by the circumstances of the marriage. It can also make up for financial losses one spouse has suffered because of contributions to the marriage, such as supporting the other spouse’s education, working unpaid for the family business, raising children, or homemaking.
What Is the Law on Spousal Support in Florida?
In 2023, Governor Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill (SB) 1416 into law. This legislation radically reforms state spousal support laws. Most notably, the new law has done away with permanent spousal support. Florida courts may no longer award indefinite alimony in a divorce. The types of spousal support possible under current law are:
- Temporary alimony: This may be awarded on a temporary basis while a divorce is pending.
- Bridge-the-gap alimony: Short-term spousal support, limited to two years, may be awarded by the court.
- Rehabilitative alimony: This type of alimony, designed to help the receiving spouse become self-supportive, is limited to five years.
- Durational alimony: This is the only longer-term spousal support now available in Florida. Limits on the duration of payments are predefined based on the length of the marriage.
What Factors are Considered in Determining Whether Alimony is Appropriate?
Spousal support is only granted in a small percentage of cases in Florida. The court’s decision is based on one spouse’s need for financial support and the other spouse’s ability to provide it. To receive alimony, a party must prove to the court that the payments are needed. For example, if one spouse stayed home to care for the children while the other spouse worked, this may have diminished their earning capacity. Typically, when spousal support is awarded, it is the higher-earning party who is required to pay.
Unlike child support, which is awarded according to specific state guidelines, spousal support is determined on a case-by-case basis. Factors the court considers in determining alimony include:
- Standard of living established during the marriage
- Financial resources of each spouse
- Financial and non-financial contributions of each spouse to the marriage
- Child support, child custody, and health insurance
- Age and physical and emotional health of each spouse
- Length of the marriage
How Does the Length of the Marriage Factor into Alimony Duration?
The length of the marriage is a central factor in determining whether spousal support is appropriate and how much should be awarded. It also determines the cap set on durational alimony or how long the payments will continue. The three categories for marriage lengths in Florida are:
- Short-term marriage: For a marriage that lasts for less than ten years, durational alimony is capped at 50% of the length of the marriage. For example, if the marriage lasted for eight years, spousal support would be capped at four years.
- Moderate-term marriage: When a marriage has lasted for 10 to 20 years, durational alimony is capped at 60% of the length of the marriage. As an example, if a couple divorced after 15 years of marriage, the maximum duration of alimony payments is set at nine years.
- Long-term marriage: For a marriage that lasted more than 20 years, the cap on durational alimony is 75%. For a marriage that ended after 25 years, if the court awarded alimony, the maximum duration of spousal support payments would be 18.75 years.
Does the New Law Affect Existing Alimony Payments in Orlando?
Florida’s new spousal support law went into effect in July of 2023. It does not automatically apply retroactively. If you were receiving or paying alimony before the new law went into effect, those terms will not automatically change. However, pre-existing spousal support orders or agreements could be subject to modification.
Under the new legislation, spousal support may be reduced or terminated if the recipient has been in a supportive relationship within 365 days before a petition for modification is filed. The burden is on the payor to prove the existence of a supportive relationship, after which the burden shifts to the recipient to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that alimony should not be reduced or terminated.
The new law establishes the procedure for a party paying alimony to modify or terminate those payments at normal retirement age. He or she may file a petition with the court six months before retirement. The petitioner must prove that retirement will reduce his or her ability to pay spousal support. Once that point is proven, the burden shifts to the party receiving payments to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that alimony should not be terminated or reduced. The court must consider various factors in making a decision under the new law.
Get Professional Assistance with Alimony Matters in Orlando?
Alimony is a complex legal issue that the court will determine after consideration of various factors. Your best chance of obtaining the most favorable outcome is to have an attorney for spousal support in Orlando by your side. At The Law Office of Erin Morse, we are knowledgeable, aggressive legal advocates who are passionate about helping our clients move forward during difficult times. For skilled representation in Orlando alimony matters, contact us at (407) 743-6059.