How to Calculate Lifetime Alimony in Florida

By Elizabeth Rayne

An understanding of the factors involved in a determination of the type and amount of alimony that can be awarded creates more realistic expectations heading into court. In Florida, lifetime alimony, also known as permanent alimony, can be deemed appropriate in certain situations. While the parties can reach a mutual agreement on the issue of alimony, the court will look to specific factors, including financial need and ability to pay, in ordering lifetime alimony payment amounts. Further, modification or termination may be requested if there is a substantial change of circumstances.

Alimony Overview

In Florida, the award of alimony is not automatic in any divorce case; it is up to the discretion of the judge based on the specifics of the case. The state does not have a specific formula for calculating alimony. However, the general principle is that alimony awards are predicated on one party's need for support and the other's ability to pay.

Lifetime Alimony Considerations

Lifetime alimony, or permanent periodic alimony, may be awarded in some cases to a financially dependent spouse. It may also be awarded to balance out an unfair distribution of property. The court will consider a number of factors in determining whether permanent alimony is appropriate, including the duration of the marriage, the financial situation and earning capacity of each party, educational attainment and marketable skills, as well as other sources of income available. Additionally, the court will consider contributions made during the marriage, including situations where one party sacrificed a career to take care of the home. Where the court finds alimony appropriate, and the other party has the means, the disadvantaged party may be awarded lifetime alimony in order to maintain the standard of living that existed prior to divorce.

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Marriage Duration

A major factor for awarding permanent alimony is the duration of the marriage. When a marriage is considered to be a "long-term" marriage, the court is more likely to award permanent support. Under Florida law, a short-term marriage is defined as one that lasted less than seven years, while a moderate-term marriage is one that lasted between seven and 17 years. A long-term marriage, which generally leads to permanent alimony, is one that lasted 17 years or more.

Alimony Agreements

A divorcing couple has the option to reach their own agreement regarding permanent alimony instead of leaving the decision up to the court. The couple must submit the agreement to the court, which will accept it if it is found to be fair. However, the court has the discretion to modify the agreement if it finds the agreement unjust to one party.

Termination and Modification

Certain factors may allow a party to terminate alimony, or modify the amount. In Florida, alimony may be terminated or reduced when the receiving party remarries, cohabits with another person, or enters into an otherwise supportive relationship. Additionally, either party can request a modification of alimony if there is a substantial change in circumstances. The receiving party may request an increase in alimony, just as the paying party may request a decrease in alimony, if either of their financial situations changes significantly.

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Ohio Laws on Spousal Support in a Marriage Dissolution

References

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Alimony, a financial award of support from one spouse to another in divorce, may be permanent in some cases. Courts commonly award temporary or rehabilitative alimony; these types of alimony end on a specific date or when the receiving spouse is able to support herself. Permanent alimony, by contrast, has no specific end. Whether a paying spouse can end permanent alimony depends on why the alimony was awarded and what has changed since the original award.

How Long Does a Marital Separation Agreement Last?

A marital separation agreement is used when a married couple decides to separate; it may or may not be followed by a divorce proceeding. A separation agreement can govern such matters as divison of property, child visitation, and both spousal and child support. In states which require that the parties live apart for a period of time before divorce will be granted, a marital separation agreement can be a preliminary step. How long your agreement will last is a matter which can be spelled out in the document; however, certain matters, such as child support, are necessarily limited in duration while others, such as division of property, are permanent.

How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Spousal Support?

Spousal support, or alimony, refers to the payments made to one spouse by the other during a separation of after a divorce. It is based either on an agreement between the couple or by a determination of the court. The purpose of spousal support is to limit any unfair economic effects of the divorce to the receiving spouse who is typically a non-wage earner or the lower-wage earner of the two. For example, a spouse who left the workforce to raise the couple's children might need money to get job training that will help her support herself after the divorce. While the length of the marriage is a factor that courts consider before awarding spousal support, it is usually not the only consideration.

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