Alimony Attorneys in PensacolaWhen a couple gets divorced and there is a significant disparity between the incomes of the two spouses, alimony payments could be awarded. Also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, alimony is a payment from one spouse to another that is intended to help the receiving spouse maintain a similar standard of living to when they were married. Whether you are on the paying or receiving end of spousal support payments during a divorce, you will need strong legal representation to help ensure that your rights and interests are protected.
At Whibbs, Stone & Barnett, P.A., we know that divorce is among the most stressful events that anyone ever has to go through, and we are here to provide strong legal guidance and moral support during this difficult time. Our attorneys have several decades of experience serving clients in Pensacola and throughout the Florida Panhandle, and we have been recognized not only for our skills and knowledge, but also for our unwavering commitment to our clients. We work closely with our clients, taking the time to listen and understand their specific needs, so we can develop the right legal strategy to secure the most favorable outcome possible.
Types of Alimony in Florida
The state of Florida allows for six different types of alimony/spousal support:
- Temporary: Temporary spousal support is support that is provided while the divorce proceeding is ongoing. Depending on the circumstances, it could take several months or longer for the divorce to be finalized, and a lower earning or non-earning spouse may need support during this time to remain financially stable.
- Bridge the Gap: As the name implies, this type of alimony is intended to help a dependent spouse transition from being married to being single. For example, this support could be needed to help pay for living expenses as the receiving spouse looks for a full-time job. Bridge the gap alimony can only be paid for up to two years, and it automatically ends if the paying spouse dies or the receiving spouse gets remarried.
- Rehabilitative: This type of alimony is designed to provide support for a period of time until the receiving spouse is able to become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony involves the need for the dependent spouse to acquire the education, training, and skills needed to enter or reenter the workforce. To qualify for this type of alimony, the dependent spouse must create a specific and defined rehabilitative plan.
- Durational: Durational alimony is support that is paid for a specified “duration” or period of time. This type of support is similar to rehabilitative alimony, except that there is no rehabilitative plan required. The length of time that the alimony is paid is determined based on the specifics of the case, but it cannot exceed the duration of the marriage. For example, if the couple was married for 15 years, then durational alimony cannot last for longer than 15 years.
- Permanent: Permanent alimony is awarded to a dependent spouse who is not able to become self-supporting in the future. This type of alimony is rare these days, but it might still be awarded in certain limited cases; such as a dependent spouse who is disabled or advanced in age, or a spouse who has to provide care full-time for a special needs child. In recent years, the Florida legislature has been trying to eliminate permanent alimony, but as of early 2021, this proposal has not yet become law.
- Lump Sum: In some special circumstances, a court may decide that it is appropriate for the dependent spouse to receive a one-time payment (i.e., lump sum) or series of lump sum payments in lieu of permanent alimony that would be paid on an ongoing basis.
Who Qualifies for Alimony?
As we touched on earlier, alimony is generally only awarded in cases when there is a significant disparity between the incomes of the two spouses. And even when this exists, there is no guarantee that the court will approve spousal support.
If the court finds that there is a need for alimony and the ability for it to be paid, they will look at several other factors to determine if it should be awarded:
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age and physical and emotional health of each spouse.
- The incomes and realistic earning abilities of each spouse.
- The assets and other financial resources of each spouse.
- The standard of living the couple enjoyed during the marriage.
- The contributions and sacrifices the spouses made to the marriage (e.g., maybe one spouse put his/her career on hold to stay home and raise the children).
- Unfaithful behavior on the part of either of the spouses, and how that behavior may have impacted the couple’s finances.
- Any legally enforceable terms and conditions of a valid prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.
- Any other factors that the court may deem relevant to the case.
There are no preset formulas for how Florida courts decide on how much alimony is appropriate and for what length of time, and at the end of the day, the courts have wide discretion with these determinations. Oftentimes, it comes down to specific factors in the case and the strength of the arguments presented by each spouse’s legal counsel.
Tax Implications of Alimony Payments
On January 1, 2019, there was an important change in the federal income tax law with regards to alimony. For divorces finalized prior to that date, alimony/spousal support payments were tax-deductible for the paying spouse, and the receiving spouse was required to declare these payments as income. As of 2019, this tax deduction (for the paying spouse) has been eliminated, and alimony is no longer counted as taxable income for the receiving spouse. These changes will no doubt have a profound impact on the tax situations of both spouses, so it is highly recommended that you speak with a professional about how this may affect your specific circumstances.
Contact a Knowledgeable and Compassionate Pensacola, FL Alimony Attorney
Alimony is a very important issue in a divorce, and because courts can be very unpredictable on this issue, you should not enter this proceeding without an experienced attorney by your side. If possible, it is generally best to negotiate an alimony/spousal support agreement directly with your spouse rather than leaving it in the hands of the court. But if an agreement cannot be reached, you need someone who can make the most effective legal arguments on your behalf.
At Whibbs Stone & Barnett, we are skilled litigators and strong negotiators. Whether inside or outside the courtroom, we will work hard to secure a favorable outcome in your case. For a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 1-888-219-4561. We look forward to serving you!