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"I'm confused about alimony. How does it work in Florida?"
Under Florida law, permanent, rehabilitative, bridge the gap, and/or lump sum alimony may be awarded to either spouse in either lump-sum or periodic payments or both. The court may order temporary support during the pendency of the litigation so as to allow the impecunious spouse to maintain the status quo during the litigation. It may be ordered for a dependant spouse if the court finds that his/her financial resources aren't enough to meet reasonable monthly needs and personal living expenses; and the supporting spouse has the ability to pay.
In determining alimony and/or temporary support in Florida, the court may consider:
If the case is litigated, the amount of the alimony award is determined by the judge. Although in some cases there may be an award of limited-term alimony, a more likely approach by the judge would be to grant an open-ended award of alimony, reviewable by the court upon a pleading alleging grounds for modification, namely, a substantial change of circumstances since the date of the court order, or a termination usually based on death, remarriage, or the cohabitation of the recipient in a supportive relationship. The award is in the discretion of the court subject to the factors listed above.
The judge will usually attempt to cover the reasonable, necessary, and customary unmet needs of the claimant. This is the difference to his/her reasonable monthly needs and expenses and net monthly income, if any. This amount is the "deficit" which must be met in order to support the claimant properly. Next, the judge will attempt to find out what ability the supporting spouse has to meet the dependent spouse's need.
There are two legal acts that will bar the award of alimony (or temporary support). One is the granting of a Final Judgment of divorce with no claim pending for and/or reservation to award alimony. One of the effects of the final divorce decree is to bar a claim for alimony if it has not been asserted in a pleading before the divorce is granted. The second bar is when there has been a waiver of alimony in a written agreement of the parties. A separation agreement, prenuptial agreement, or divorce settlement agreement can obtain a waiver of alimony. When a party waives the right to seek alimony, in a valid agreement, he/she may not thereafter go back and retrieve the lost support.
Alimony ends at the earlier of:
Jacqueline M. Valdespino is the founder of the family and matrimonial law firm Valdespino & Associates, P.A. in Miami which specializes in complex litigation of family-law cases. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and received the Tobias Simon Award (2003) and the American Bar Association Ann Liechty Child Custody Award (2003). Ms. Valdespino is fluent in Spanish and Italian.