Permanent Alimony in Florida

Permanent Alimony in Florida

In a Florida divorce, there may be various elements involved. Alimony is one of them. Also known as spousal support, alimony is a legal obligation from one spouse to another. The higher earner may be ordered to financially support the other spouse after a divorce through a lump sum or monthly payments. While alimony is not a requirement in all divorce cases, it is an option to prevent a spouse from needing state assistance.

Florida is lenient when it comes to divorce. The state offers five types of alimony:

  • Bridge-the-gap
  • Rehabilitative
  • Durational
  • Temporary
  • Permanent

Four of these are short-term or temporary options. They are in place to help a spouse transition from married life to single life when they may have limited income. They receive alimony while they look for a new job or attend college to gain skills and education.

There is one form of alimony that stands out though: permanent alimony. As the name suggests, permanent alimony lasts forever—well, until the payer or recipient dies. It also ends when the recipient remarries. It could also end when the recipient cohabitates with another person.

Most states have done away with permanent alimony, as it is considered controversial. Florida is just one of seven states that still allows it. North Carolina, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia are the other states. Many lawmakers support reform, claiming that permanent alimony is archaic. They say it does more harm than good. Florida has tried reform many times, but to no avail. However, it is possible it could happen in the near future.

Permanent alimony worked better in the past, when women were less likely to work. Now, with many women outearning men, it is no longer a requirement for most marriages. But the tables have turned and nowadays, many women are now paying alimony to men. When it is allowed, it usually leaves the recipient living a comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile, the payer is the one who struggles, especially near retirement age.

In the past, there was some incentive to pay alimony, since it was tax deductible. The payer could claim it on their tax returns. However, that is no longer the case. Payers no longer receive any tax benefits, so it is now more of a burden than ever.

What is Considered?

Not all divorces require alimony. It mainly depends on the financial need of either spouse. If both spouses work and make a decent amount of money, then no alimony is needed. However, if there is a huge discrepancy in income, then the court may award alimony. The spouses can also agree on alimony on their own without court intervention.

While a marriage of any length can result in alimony, permanent alimony is typically only awarded for long-term marriages lasting at least 17 years. A shorter marriage may qualify for permanent alimony in rare cases, such as the disability of a spouse and inability to work. However, there must be no other fair options and permanent alimony should be a last resort.

Also considered are factors such as the age and health of each spouse, the earning potential and education of each spouse, the standard of living each party enjoyed while married, and the contributions each person made to the marriage, such as working, raising children, education, and home making. If there are children involved and one parent is the primary caregiver, that may also be taken into consideration. Adultery by either party may also be considered in an alimony award, although that is not usually the case.

However, income and finances are the biggest factors. If one spouse has no skills or very little education and has barely worked during the marriage because they spent their time raising children, then they would likely be a good candidate for permanent alimony. A person who works and can support themselves would likely not require any form of alimony.

Can Permanent Alimony be Modified or Terminated?

In some cases, permanent alimony may be modified or terminated when the payer reaches retirement age or becomes unemployed for an extended period of time. It can also be modified if financial circumstances change for the recipient spouse. For example, if he or she receives an inheritance or wins the lottery, alimony may be terminated. Also, under Florida law, permanent alimony is not allowed when the recipient spouse’s income is more than the income of the payer spouse.

Under Florida law, a person does not necessarily have to be married for their alimony payments to end. The courts have the discretion to end alimony if the recipient spouse is in a “supportive relationship.” This may mean cohabitating with another person who is paying for expenses. However, the term is vague so that the court can make a decision on a case-by-case basis. They will see how much money the recipient spouse is receiving from this relationship before making a decision.

Seek Legal Help

When people qualify for alimony, they typically receive temporary or short-term alimony. Being eligible for permanent alimony is rare, but it does happen in Florida.

If you are required to pay permanent alimony, you may have questions or concerns. You may wonder if a modification or termination is possible in the future. Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you understand what is expected of you financially. Schedule a consultation today by filling out the online form or calling (954) 346-6464.