Alimony can be an important financial resource for those who have been disadvantaged by divorce. But how exactly do Florida courts determine when and how to award alimony? State law specifies that judges are first to consider whether either party to divorce has an actual need for alimony and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony. If it is determined that there is a need for one party and an ability to pay by the other party, the next question is the appropriate type and amount of support.
Judges are to take into consideration various factors when determining the type and amount of alimony appropriate to the situation. These factors include: the length of the marriage; the standard of living the parties became accustomed to during the marriage; each party's financial resources and earning capacities; the contributions each party made to the marriage; the responsibilities for mutual children after the divorce; and several other factors.
Aside from the amount of alimony deemed appropriate, there are several types of alimony that may be awarded, including bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational or permanent alimony. The distinguishing factor of bridge-the-gap alimony is that it is aimed at helping a party with short-term needs within a two-year time frame. Rehabilitative alimony is aimed at putting a party in the position of redeveloping previous work skills or credentials or acquiring necessary education, experience or training.
Durational alimony is awarded to provide a party with economic assistance for a definite period of time after divorce, but is only available under specific circumstances according to the length of the marriage. Permanent alimony is more rarely awarded, and--like durational alimony-- there are rules guiding when judges are able to award such alimony depending on the length of the marriage.
Parties to divorce who have taken stock of their post-divorce financial situation and feel that spousal support may be something they are entitled to should always work with an experienced attorney to ensure their interests are adequately represented.
Source: Florida State Legislature, "Dissolution Of Marriage; Support; Time-Sharing," Accessed Nov. 7, 2014.