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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Washington State Alimony Laws

Washington state law sets forth the procedure for dividing property and awarding alimony when spouses divorce or a domestic partnership dissolves. Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is a monetary award paid by one spouse to the other after marital property has been divided by the court.

The Primary Residence in a Divorce

A primary residence can be one of the largest assets to divide in a divorce. Because the family home is not easily capable of division between spouses, the court may decide to order the property sold or, alternatively, award it to one spouse after considering several factors outlined in state law. To offset the value of any home awarded, the other spouse may receive a larger share of the remaining assets, less marital debt or a reduced alimony obligation.

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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