When you hear “divorce,” the first thing most people think of is “alimony.” Alimony, or spousal support, is designed to support the lower-earning spouse after a divorce: the higher-earning partner provides money to the lower-earning partner so that they will receive a fair income until they are able to support themselves. This could be for several reasons: one partner may have spent more time taking care of the family rather than career-building, or the lower-earning partner might be unable to maintain their standard of living after divorce without support.
Due to the variability from marriage to marriage, the amount of alimony is impossible to unilaterally assign (making it different from other court-ordered support systems such as child support). Courts maintain discretion over all aspects of assigning alimony except for what may seem the most crucial: the amount. Though due to the variability between situations it may seem like an arbitrary system, there are several factors courts take into account.
· Any income disparity: If one partner is significantly financially weaker, the court will consider that when choosing an amount.
· Standard of living during the marriage: The court will take this into account to ensure that one partner does not see a hugely diminished standard of living after divorce in comparison with what they enjoyed before the divorce.
· The length of the marriage: In Florida, marriages are defined as either “short-term” (below seven years), “medium-term” (between seven and 17 years) or “long-term” (17 years or more). Each level will have a different effect on the alimony – particularly, the length of alimony payments. A judge may not grant alimony payments that last longer than the term of the marriage.
· Whether there are children: If there are children, child support will be assigned separately, but the court may consider this as an element of lifestyle.
· The length of time it will take the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient: Though there are different types of alimony, one is called “rehabilitative,” which means it is designed to protect the lower-earning partner while they become self-sufficient.
Though there are “rules of thumb” or calculators online that claim to figure out what your alimony payment may be, it’s ultimately up to the discretion of the court. An experienced attorney can help you understand the implications of your specific situation, as well as ensure that your rights are protected.