Judge gavel deciding on marriage divorce

One of the hotly argued topics in a divorce is alimony. Who is entitled to alimony? Who has to pay it? How long is alimony paid? Does alimony always have to be paid? And what if the wife makes more than the husband? Who makes the decisions and how do they decide?

In times long past, like thirty or forty years ago, alimony was paid almost exclusively by the husband to the wife, because the husband was likely to have an income and the wife was not. Today, both parties most likely have incomes, or the ability to work; or at least there is no presumption that the wife is not working. Indeed, the wife may have a better job than her husband.

So the courts look to numerous factors in determining if alimony should be awarded, and to which party, when a marriage is dissolved. Florida State Statute section 61.08(2) lists a plethora of factors the court must consider, which can include, but are not limited to:

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.

(b) The duration of the marriage. This is critical, because for purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater.

(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.

(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.

(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.

(i) All sources of income available to either party.

It is important to consider whether each party is able to work, able to earn a living, able to improve their standard of living; and whether one or the other party has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time during the marriage. Formerly, when women were the primary homemakers, a divorce meant they entered the workforce with no training and no skills. Today, a spouse may still enter the workforce at a disadvantage, having been home for five or six years with children.

To alleviate this, there are several types of alimony beyond permanent alimony which can be granted. Permanent alimony is typically only awarded to spouses in long-term marriages when the factors listed above indicate that the spouse will need support for the rest of his or her life, or until remarriage. This type of alimony is becoming rarer.

Durational alimony is awarded when a lengthy term of alimony is needed—many years of alimony—but permanent alimony is not appropriate. Durational alimony cannot last longer than the length of the marriage.

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to assist the spouse receiving it while they develop or reacquire skills needed for self-support. For instance, if the wife had been a teacher, but her teaching credential had lapsed, rehabilitative alimony would allow her to take any refresher classes and test for her credential.

“Bridge-the-gap” alimony cannot last for more than two years. Intended for short-term marriages, it is meant to assist a party in the transition from being married to being single.

Whether or not you want or need alimony, or whether or not you want to pay it, is a complex question. Your family law attorney can help you make your way through the factors and determine what you have, what you need, and who has to make the payments.