How Do I Determine If I Need Alimony?

Wooden letter blocks spelling "alimony."

Financial security is one of the top concerns when entering a divorce. When a couple has shared finances, assets, and liabilities for a significant period of time it can be a daunting task to consider what your financial status may look like after a divorce. This financial uncertainty commonly results in spouses questioning if they will need alimony to support themselves after separation from a spouse. If you are considering a divorce or are in the midst of one, contact an experienced attorney to discuss your financial options and your need of alimony.

There are four types of alimony to be considered:

  • Bridge-The-Gap Alimony: This form of alimony serves to “bridge the gap” of a spouse’s transition from being married to being single. This includes short-term needs that the court is able to identify and determine as legitimate and necessary. Bridge-the-gap alimony cannot be awarded for any period longer than two years. Unless the spouse receiving alimony remarries, or one of the spouses passes away, the amount and duration of the payments cannot be altered.
  • Durational Alimony: In many situations, long-term alimony is neither necessary, nor reasonable. This is especially true for short marriages, and marriages of any length where there is no need for ongoing financial support. When short-term spousal support is the most fair and effective solution, durational alimony may be established. The length of time for durational support cannot be altered without extenuating circumstances—however, if one or both spouses undergo significant life changes, the amount of the payments may be altered to reflect this.
  • Permanent Alimony: When the needs of a spouse that were established during a marriage are not matched by their financial ability to fulfill these needs, permanent alimony may be awarded for long-term support. To approve permanent alimony, the court must be convinced, with clear evidence, that there exists a need for permanent spousal support. The court must also determine that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable in the spouses’ situation.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: When a spouse may need financial support to help them get into a position to support themselves, rehabilitative alimony may be awarded. Rehabilitative support is used to facilitate education, training, and work experience needed to develop new skills, or to redevelop old skills. A plan for rehabilitation must be established as part of this financial maintenance, and the alimony award is subject to change upon specific changes of circumstances outlined in Florida law.

Unlike child support, there is no set formula when calculating alimony. Rather the court is charged with determining if there is a need and an ability to pay. As this standard is notorious for its ambiguity determining your need of alimony can be a complicated process. However, the first and most critical step is to complete and analyze the financial affidavits provided.

A financial affidavit is similar to a budget in that it lists all your monthly expenses, income, assets, and liabilities. Each party is required to individually compile this information and attest to its accuracy within 45 days of service of the initial petition for dissolution. It is important that you keep this information up to date as you move through your divorce process as your “needs” may change as you discover the added expenses and or loss of income that comes with the divorce process. Generally, the need of financial assistance is found when there is a deficit between the income acquired by a single spouse and the expenses. The larger the deficit the more likely you may argue your case of having a need for financial support. However, you will also need to show that your spouse has the ability to support this need. Similarly, once their financial affidavit is complete, you can determine if there is a surplus or deficit on your spouse’s individual affidavit. If your spouse has a respective surplus you will likely meet the threshold of need and ability to pay.

However, it is also important to note that even if a financial affidavit displays a deficit or surplus the court is given broad discretion when determining the needs and ability of each spouse. For instance, evidence of infidelity, length of the marriage, age of each party, health of each party, standard of living established during the marriage, income and earning capacity of each party, and contribution to the marriage. Therefore, it is critical not only to determine your financial needs but also the remaining factors available to the court for consideration when determining an alimony award.

Although determining an individual’s need for alimony may seem confusing; this is where the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney will become your greatest asset. We will be able to dissect your specific needs, your spouse’s ability to pay, determine if you have an argument for alimony, and ensure you are properly educated in the alimony process and determination. Contact a lawyer today to discuss your need of alimony in relation to your divorce proceedings.

Speaking to an attorney at our Pensacola office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at (800) 822-5170 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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