Florida has some of the more specific alimony laws in the nation, but they don’t include a specific formula for calculating the amount you have to pay. It’s not like child support, where you have a worksheet to help you arrive at the proper amount. Alimony -- both the amount and the duration -- comes down to the discretion of the judge after he considers several factors.
Amount of Alimony
How much alimony you’ll have to pay or how much you’ll receive in Florida depends on what the judge believes is fair, but some general rules apply. One spouse must have a genuine need for assistance, and the other must still have the ability to make ends meet after some of his income is diverted to her. Florida judges will rarely, if ever, leave the spouse who is paying alimony with less income than his ex is enjoying. This would require extraordinary circumstances such as if she suffers from a disability. Otherwise, the amount paid depends on each spouse’s earnings from all sources.
Types of Alimony
Florida amended its alimony statutes in January 2011 to recognize four types of post-divorce alimony. Although this won’t help you calculate the precise amount, the new laws are reasonably decisive in determining how long you will have to pay alimony. Bridge-the-gap alimony lasts for no more than two years and is designed to help a spouse make the transition from married to single life. Rehabilitative alimony lasts only as long as it takes a spouse to acquire the necessary training or education to support herself. She must submit a plan to the court detailing how long she thinks this will take. Durational alimony is limited to no longer than the length of the marriage. This means that if you were married for five years, alimony will last five years. Permanent alimony has no court-ordered cut-off date, so when a judge orders permanent alimony, he must state for the record why he didn’t consider any of the other three types of alimony to be fair under the unique circumstances of your marriage.
Duration of Marriage
Permanent alimony is more commonly awarded after a long-term marriage, which Florida statutes define as 17 years or longer. A judge can order it after a marriage of seven to 10 years if a compelling reason exists. Short-term marriages are those of less than seven years -- and permanent alimony is only ordered in these situations under extraordinary circumstances.
Modification and Termination of Alimony
Under Florida law, the court can't modify or terminate bridge-the-gap alimony once it's ordered. The court can terminate or modify rehabilitative alimony if the receiving spouse doesn’t comply with the plan she submitted to the court, or if she completes the plan early such as by graduating from college and getting a degree ahead of schedule. The court can also modify it if the paying spouse has a significant change of circumstances such as if his income drastically drops through no fault of his own. A significant change of circumstances can alter durational and permanent alimony as well. Some events terminate alimony automatically, such as if the receiving spouse remarries. Florida law also addresses “supportive relationships,” so if your ex moves in with her new partner but doesn't marry him, thinking that if they don't marry, she won’t lose her alimony, you can file a motion and bring this to the court’s attention. If you can prove that they’re combining incomes to sustain their household, the court can end your alimony obligation.