Guide to Spousal Support in Florida
- Types of spousal support in Florida
- How the court determines an amount
- How long it lasts
- How to modify support
- How to pay spousal support
Spousal support payments, known as alimony in some states, are funds transferred from one party to another after a divorce is finalized. Florida offers multiple types of spousal support, including some that last for long periods.
But spousal support in Florida rarely lasts forever. And tax code alterations mean spousal support can be less profitable for both parties.
Let’s dig into the details.
What kinds of spousal support are recognized in Florida?
Several versions of spousal support are encoded within Florida statutes. If you’re hoping for payments from your ex in your divorce, they must fall within one of these categories.
Florida’s codes don’t specify what temporary spousal support looks like, how long it lasts, or when it’s appropriate. But it’s safe to assume that temporary spousal support lasts for a short period that begins when the marriage is over and ends at a point specified in your divorce documents.
A temporary spousal support plan might be appropriate for people who have been married for a relatively short period. For example, payments of a few months might help one spouse set up an independent household and start a new life as a solo person.
This type of spousal support is designed to help one person transition from a shared budget to a single one. Payments can’t cover a period lasting longer than two years. Courts say that these payments should be used for legitimate short-term needs that are identifiable.
A bridge-the-gap plan might be appropriate for ex-couples with significant income disparities. One person might need funding for a few months as they adjust to a smaller budget as a single person.
A rehabilitative program is designed to help one person become self-sufficient after divorce. The payments can provide a buffer as they develop the skills and opportunities needed to create an appropriate budget similar to the one they had as married people.
A rehabilitative plan might be appropriate for people separated by opportunities and skills. One person might need payments to go back to school, get an education, and get a job that allows for a reasonable standard of living.
A durational alimony program offers payments for a set period. This type of alimony can be modified or ended based on proof of a substantial change in circumstances. The length of the marriage dictates how long the payments last.
A durational spousal support program is a generic tool that could work for almost anyone. If you’re hoping for payments at the end of a marriage, this type may work for you.
How do courts determine spousal support in Florida?
Several factors intertwine when Florida courts consider an alimony petition. The more evidence you can provide, the more likely it is that you’ll be awarded the large settlement you’re hoping for.
Florida laws say the courts can consider all of the following factors:
- The length of your union
- The standard of living you enjoyed while married
- The age and health of both parties
- The resources and income of both people
- The earning potential, education, and employability of both parties
- The contributions both people made to issues like homemaking, childcare, and career advancement
- The responsibilities both people will have in raising shared children
If your divorce case goes to court, you will argue your side in front of a judge. But you can also negotiate these issues independently.
A mediator might help you move past tricky topics. At the end of a meeting like this, you could present your approved plans to the judge for approval.
How long does spousal support last?
At the end of the divorce process, you’re given formal documents that contain your approved alimony arrangements. That paperwork should tell you how long the funds should cover.
Some types of alimony last for brief periods, such as bridge-the-gap alimony, which can’t last longer than two years.
Other versions of alimony can last longer. For example, durational alimony can last up to 75% of the length of a long-term marriage. If you’re married for 30 years, your payments could go on for about 22 years.
But no form of Florida spousal support lasts forever. In 2023, legislators approved an overhaul of the alimony laws, effectively banning permanent alimony. Formulas can tie the length of payments to the time spent in marriage. But all forms come to an end.
How to modify spousal support
Either party can petition the court to ask for changes to spousal support. But alterations aren’t easy to make. One party must provide significant reasons for payment issues.
The person paying could cite problems like the following:
- Serious, incapacitating illness
The person accepting payments could cite problems like the following:
- Persistent unemployment
- The need for more education to get a new job
- Increasing expenses
You can head to the court that processed the divorce and file paperwork to reopen your case. The court will set a hearing for you to argue your case.
This same process can be used to terminate spousal support early. For example, you could file paperwork saying that an injury is forcing you into an early retirement, and that makes you less able to pay alimony.
Paying spousal support in Florida
If your divorce settlement includes spousal support, you’re required to follow it. Understanding the details is critical, as breaking the rules could lead to serious consequences.
How are your monthly payments made?
Florida courts offer two basic payment types for spousal support, including the following:
- Periodic: You make payments over an extended period, such as monthly or quarterly.
- Lump: You make one large transfer of funds at the end of your marriage, which completes your obligation.
Florida courts can require employers to deduct periodic spousal support payments. The employer can then send funds to the spouse directly. Or, the employer could place the payments in a depository, which then sends the funds along.
Can you skip payments and make them up later?
Few people want to make spousal support payments. But after your divorce, you’re legally required to follow the terms dictated by the court.
If you fail to make your payments, the court could hold a contempt hearing and force you to pay. If you don’t, you could go to jail.
Can you deduct spousal support payments from your taxes?
In 2019, legislators altered tax laws. A person who gets alimony payments can no longer treat them as income. The spouse paying alimony can no longer consider them a tax deduction. These two shifts can make divorces less profitable over a person’s lifetime.
Should you ask for spousal support?
If you’re heading into divorce in Florida, spousal support payments could help you set up an independent household and move forward into your single life. You’ll have a reliable source of income to transition.
But spousal support isn’t your only option. You could negotiate with your spouse on a different type of settlement. For example, you could ask to retain your entire retirement account (instead of splitting it 50/50) in return for dropping a spousal support claim.
Be ready to talk openly and honestly with your spouse about arrangements that are fair and equitable. You could find an approach that works well for both of you.
References61.08: Alimony. Florida Legislature.
A New Law Puts an End to Permanent Alimony in Florida. (July 2023). WFSU.
61.14: Enforcement and Modification of Support, Maintenance, or Alimony Agreements or Orders. Florida Legislature.
Alimony FAQ. Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller, Palm Beach County.
Changes to Florida Alimony Rules: Get the Facts Before Filing for Divorce. (September 2019). Attorney at Law Magazine.