As most parties to a divorce know, going through the separation is often immensely stressful and frequently includes unanticipated complexities. From deciding how to divide the property to establishing a separate life after marriage, there are many things to consider when getting a divorce. Adultery, however, can create a whole new level of stress for both parties. Even though adultery is no longer a ground for divorce under Florida law, courts can consider incidents of adultery when dividing up property, and especially when deciding on alimony payments.
Most people are familiar with the concept of adultery, which involves one spouse having an extramarital affair. While the act of adultery can be devastating enough, there are times when an adulterous spouse takes things even further by allowing the affair to have a financial impact on the marriage. Examples include when one spouse purchases cars, jewelry or other gifts, pays for vacations, or even pays rent for another person. These events, when taken together with the existence of the adultery, can provide a judge with enough justification to alter the alimony payments. However, the effects of adultery do not end simply at alimony, and can go on to affect the division of property, child support payments, and can even affect the determination of child custody.
While most people might be aware that alimony is a spousal support payment that meets some need of the spouse, they might not be aware that there are several factors that can affect the amount and duration of an award of alimony. In Florida, courts may consider a wide variety of factors when determining the amount of alimony, including:
-the length of the marriage;
-the standard of living maintained during the marriage;
-the physical and emotional condition of each party;
-the contributions of each party to the marriage;
-all sources of income available to both parties; and,
-any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
It should be noted that, when analyzing the duration of the marriage, the courts in Florida will generally consider them based on whether they lasted for a short, moderate, or long period of time. Under Florida law, a short marriage is one that has lasted for less than 7 years, a moderate marriage is one that lasted between 7 and 17 years, and a long marriage is one that lasted for greater than 17 years.
The courts may also consider the adultery of a spouse, as well as the circumstances of that spouse. When considering adultery, courts will rarely look to see if there was just a physical act. Courts recognize that adultery can involve much more than just a physical relationship, and will generally look to whether there was any financial impact on the non-adulterous spouse resulting from the adultery. As mentioned above, this can include gifts, vacations, and even providing support for the other spouse. Once a court has determined that there is sufficient evidence to allow alimony, the court may then go on to decide what type of alimony will be available to the supported spouse.
Under Florida law, there are five different types of alimony available through the courts. These include alimony pendente lite, bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony. While each type of alimony has its own requirements, it is possible for adultery to affect the award of alimony, depending on the circumstances.
Alimony Pendente Lite
While other types of temporary alimony can extend for years, and possibly even decades, alimony pendente lite, which is also known as temporary alimony, exists solely during the divorce proceedings. This type of alimony is granted in order to support a spouse during divorce proceedings. As such, alimony pendente lite terminates upon the finalization of the divorce.
Courts recognize that life after divorce can be stressful, and at times, difficult to manage, especially in the cases of non-wage earning spouses. Under Florida law, courts may grant spouses with temporary support under bridge-the-gap alimony. This form of alimony is granted in order to meet identifiable, short-term needs of the supported spouse, such as living expenses while a spouse is engaged in retraining in order to obtain improved employment prospects. Because the goal of this form of alimony is to provide short-term relief, an award of bridge-the-gap alimony is capped at two years, and once granted, cannot be modified for any reason.
In addition to temporary support for specific needs, courts will also grant temporary support to a spouse in order to establish, or reestablish, the capacity to support him or herself through redeveloping skills or credentials, or through the acquisition of the necessary education, work experience, or training, in order to develop the appropriate skills or credentials. Florida courts, however, will require a clear and detailed plan in order to grant rehabilitative alimony.
Out of the five types of alimony available to the parties to a divorce, durational alimony and permanent alimony are the two that can be the most affected by adultery. This is because, whereas the prior three forms of alimony were for specific purposes, durational alimony and permanent alimony seek to provide economic assistance to parties following a divorce. Specifically, the purpose of durational alimony is to provide economic assistance when an award of permanent alimony may be inappropriate, and is generally awarded in marriages of short or moderate duration.
Finally, there is the matter of permanent alimony. Unlike the other forms of alimony, this form of alimony has no predetermined length, and is intended to last until either the death of the parties, the remarriage of the supported party, or the death of at least one party. The purpose of permanent alimony is to provide for the needs and necessities as they existed during the marriage, and is granted to a party who lacks the financial ability to meet his or her needs following the marriage.