Understanding Permanent Alimony in Florida.
Permanent alimony may be awarded to provide for the needs and necessities of life as they were established during the marriage of the parties for a spouse who lacks the financial ability to meet the needs and necessities of life following a dissolution of marriage. There are limitations as to when a court may award permanent periodic alimony, particularly for marriages of short or moderate duration
When is Permanent Alimony Awarded?
Permanent alimony is most appropriate following a marriage of long duration, which is considered to be 17 years or more. When awarding permanent alimony, courts take into account the following factors:
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age of each spouse
- The physical and emotional condition of each spouse
- The financial resources of each spouse
- The earning potential, education level, vocational skill and employability of each spouse
- The contribution of each party to the marriage including homemaking, child care, education and career building
Courts may award permanent alimony to a spouse following a moderate duration marriage between seven and 17 years if the receiving spouse can prove these factors by clear and convincing evidence.
Permanent alimony is rarely awarded for short-duration marriages, which last less than seven years. To receive permanent alimony following a short duration of marriage, the receiving spouse must present evidence of exceptional circumstances. In addition, the court must determine that no other form of alimony is fair and reasonable under the circumstances.
Can permanent alimony ever be terminated?
Permanent alimony automatically terminates under two conditions. First, the obligation to pay permanent alimony ends if either the receiving spouse or the paying spouse dies. Second, permanent alimony will also terminate upon the remarriage of the receiving spouse.
Even if permanent alimony is not terminated by death or remarriage, paying spouses can modify alimony awards if either ex-spouse experiences a substantial change in circumstances. For example, modifications may be allowed if the receiving spouse gets a substantial inheritance, wins the lottery, or receives a valuable gift or a large pay raise. Modifications may also be granted if the paying spouse retires, experiences long-term unemployment, or exhibits an involuntary decreased ability to pay alimony.
In addition, alimony awards may be modified if the receiving spouse generates more income than the paying spouse. Under Florida law, permanent alimony is prohibited when the receiving spouse’s income, including the receipt of alimony, exceeds the income of the paying spouse.
How Will Alimony Reform effect me?
The Florida Legislature is again trying to pass a bill that would do away with permanent alimony in 2021. Senators Joe Gruthers and Representative Anthony Rodriguez filed bills (SB 1922 and HB 1559) recently that include eliminating the award of permanent alimony. If the bill passes this time here are a few ways it could effect you:
- The bill is not retroactive, but alimony will be calculated in a different way.
- The bill would do away with permanent alimony.
- There will be a new alimony calculation: For example, durational alimony couldn’t be longer than 50% the length of the marriage.
Stay tuned for more information on these proposed bills in the future.
Alimony and Taxes
According to the new (2019), tax rules alimony or separate maintenance payments are not deductible from the income of the payor or includable in the income of the receiving spouse. For more information see this IRS page.