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The legal basis for alimony in a Florida divorce

When residents of central Florida decide to end their marriages, one of their most urgent questions is whether the court will award alimony to themselves or the other party. A wife who obtains physical custody of the children wants to know whether her ex-husband will be ordered to pay her alimony, whereas the same ex-husband may worry that the court will order him to pay an excessive amount of alimony. The grounds for an award of alimony in a Florida divorce are not specific, but an understanding of the essential legal reasons for granting alimony should soften or eliminate most of these worries.

The modern name for alimony is "spousal support." Its purpose is to alleviate financial hardship if one spouse has significantly fewer assets to provide income after the divorce proceeding has ended. Alimony is usually determined after the court has made an equitable distribution of the couple's assets and debts. Alimony can be granted to either the husband or the wife. In some marriages, the spouses are able to negotiate the amount of alimony to be paid by one ex-spouse to the other. When such agreement is not possible, the court will conduct an examination of each person's financial resources, earning ability and likely living expenses. (Alimony is calculated separately from child support.)

The court will consider a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the parties' prior standard of living, the ages of the parties, the physical and emotional condition of the parties, each party's earning capacity and whether one spouse supported the other during a period of education that increased the earning potential of the other spouse. By the same token, the court will consider whether one spouse must acquire education or training to enhance their post-marriage earning capacity.

Florida courts award five types of spousal support: rehabilitative alimony that is used to assist the retraining or education of one spouse, bridge-the-gap alimony that pays the expenses of the receiving spouse during the divorce, permanent alimony that lasts until the receiving spouse remarries or dies, durational alimony that is paid for a specified period, or lump-sum alimony which is usually paid within a specific time after the judgment of divorce becomes final.

Anyone with questions about spousal support may wish to consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney for an evaluation of how the above factors apply to the potential divorce.

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