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How alimony works in Florida

Alimony, or spousal maintenance, often numbers among top areas of concern for Florida couples starting the divorce process. People want to know how much they can expect, how long payments will continue and how courts determine appropriate amounts.

While the answers to these questions depend heavily on the specific facts of each case, knowing the general underlying principles can give you a better ballpark estimate of what you can expect. Speaking with your attorney can give you additional information geared to your own case.

Why courts award alimony

The general purpose of alimony is to address the problems that arise when divorcing spouses have differing income levels and opportunities. Florida courts may award one of several types of alimony, each of which aims to level the field with a particular method:

Transitional alimony

Bridge-the-gap, or transitional, alimony aims to help a lower-income spouse cover specific bills while he or she re-balances a new financial situation.

Temporary alimony

The court may award temporary alimony to be paid while the divorce is ongoing. It ends automatically once the court enters the final divorce judgment. If the court deems it necessary, the decree may award another type of alimony for post-divorce payments.

Rehabilitative alimony

The lower-income spouse may be able to achieve a higher earning potential through further education, training or low-paid or unpaid experience. This often happens when one spouse stayed at home during the marriage, making it difficult to now find gainful employment right away. Rehabilitative alimony aims to cover the costs of whatever the spouse needs to do to start his or her career. Courts typically want to see a specific plan, including timelines and costs.

Durational alimony

Most often used after the end of a marriage lasting fewer than seven years or between the lengths of seven and 17 years, durational alimony consists of a predetermined amount paid out over a length of time, which is usually no longer than the duration of the marriage.

Permanent alimony

Permanent alimony, now becoming increasingly rare, typically pertains to marriages lasting over 17 years, where the lower-income spouse would not be able to earn enough money to reasonably approximate the couple's prior living standard.

Requesting modification

When circumstances change materially, either party may ask the court to modify the set alimony terms.

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