Alimony (also referred to as spousal support) may be awarded by the court when there is a difference in the earning abilities between the spouses. The spouse who is financially able may be ordered to provide support to the spouse with a lesser earning ability. Spousal support is taxable to the spouse receiving the monies and is a tax deduction to the spouse paying the support.
One of the factors courts assess in determining the type of alimony is the length of the marriage. In general, short term marriages are less than 7 years, moderate term marriages are between 7-17 years in length and long term marriages are over seventeen years.
In determining any award of alimony, the Courts consider marital standard of living, the length of the marriage, each of the parties’ financial resources, earning ability, age, health, education, contributions to the marriage, sources of income, each parent’s responsibilities for the minor children, tax treatment of alimony awards, or any other factor that impacts the recipient or the payor.
In general, there are five types of spousal support.
Temporary alimony: Temporary alimony is the support provided to one spouse while the divorce is pending.
Bridge the Gap: Bridge the Gap alimony is the shortest term of support. Bridge-the-gap is provided solely to allow one spouse to transition from married life to single life. The length of bridge the gap alimony cannot exceed 2 years.
Rehabilitative alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is a paid for a short, finite period of time and is paid to the receiving spouse until that spouse obtains additional education, training or skills sufficient to allow the spouse to support themselves. To award rehabilitative alimony, the court must have a specific plan for the person requesting rehabilitative alimony.
Durational alimony: Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent alimony is inappropriate. It is designed to provide a party with economic assistance for a period of time after a short or moderate length marriage. Durational alimony cannot be awarded for a period longer than the length of the marriage.
Permanent alimony: Permanent alimony is available to a spouse from long-term marriage that is in need of financial support. It is paid until the receiving spouse remarries or either spouse dies. Permanent support may be modifiable or, provided the spouses agree, can be non-modifiable. To establish permanent support, the court evaluates the marital standard of living, the length of the marriage, each of the parties’ earning ability, age, health, education, contributions to the marriage, sources of income and the value of the parties’ estates.
Lump sum alimony: Lump sum alimony is a payment of a fixed amount of money. It creates a right that survives the death of both parties and cannot later be changed or cancelled. Lump sum alimony may consist of money, property or any other thing of value. It may be payable all at one time, such as the transfer of a car, house, or household contents, or in payments over period of time, such as $10,000 payable at the rate of $100 per week.
Both parents have a legal duty to support their children. In general, the financial obligations of each parent for this support is determined by the time sharing established in the Parenting Plan, the incomes of the parents, the insurance costs of the parents, the insurance costs of the children and any required day care costs.
In Florida, the support obligations for children are calculated based upon the net income of the parents. Parents who earn money from W-2 or 1099 income, net incomes are easily determined. Parents who are self-employed may require experts to analyze lifestyle and spending habits to determine net income.
When calculating child support Gross Income is first identified from:
- Salary or wages of each spouse; and
- Bonuses, commissions, allowances, and tips; and
- Business income from self-employment, partnership, etc.; and
- All workers compensation, social security, disability benefits
- Interest and dividends
Net Income is then calculated by subtracting deductions for:
- Federal and state taxes
- Spousal support orders
- Prior child support orders actually paid
- Parent’s health insurance
- Mandatory union dues and retirement plans
The combined net income of both parents establishes the base support obligation for the children. The cost for daycare and the child’s health insurance are added to the base obligations. Each parent is then responsible for their proportionate share of this obligation.
The court maintains discretion to deviate five percent (5%) up or down from the calculated obligation when extraordinary circumstances exist:
- Extraordinary medical, psychological, education, or dental expenses
- Independent income of the child
- Seasonal variations in one or both parents’ income or expenses
- Special needs of the child
- The age of the child
The obligation for support may be modified if any permanent and substantial change occurs, i.e., changes in income of the parents, changes in day care, changes in the contact schedule, or changes in the child’s needs.