Alimony
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Alimony

 

Alimony is something everyone needs to be aware of. Alimony, over time, can easily add up to many thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of dollars. Whether you are the ex who is seeking alimony, or whether you are hoping not to pay, read on to learn about this very easily misunderstood area of Florida divorce law..

What is alimony?  Alimony is sometimes called spousal support.  It is a payment from one ex spouse to the other ex spouse and it is designed to help equalize the standards of living post-divorce.  It can come in one of several forms.  It can be a monthly payment, or it can be in a lump sum.

There are many different types of alimony.  In Florida, the most common types of alimony are:

 

a. permanent periodic, which can go on until you or your ex dies;

 

b. temporary, which can be awarded while the case is still pending and before a final resolution of your divorce;

 

c. lump sum, a one-time amount usually awarded at the end of your case;  

 

d. rehabilitative, which is for a limited period of time and can be used for education expenses, job re-training, and other similar purposes.  

 

e. durational, which is the newest type of alimony and is limited to the duration of the marriage.  For example, if you were married for 8 years, durational alimony can be up to a maximum of 96 months.  

 

Alimony is unpredictable and varies widely.    You may know a bit about child support.  Even if you don’t have kids, you may know that child support is calculated according to certain guidelines.  If you tell me your income, your spouse’s income, the number of kids you have together, if there is health insurance and who pays for it, if there are child care expenses and who pays for it, and how often the children sleep over at Mom’s versus at Dad’s, I can tell you to the penny who will pay child support and in what amount.  Not so with alimony.  Alimony varies widely.  Judges are given a wide range of possibilities from which to choose.  There are no guidelines set up by the politicians in Tallahassee that tell the judges what they must do.  Instead, there are a number of different “factors” which should be taken into account and the judge makes a call after reviewing all of the evidence.  This is why it is crucial that you have an attorney who practices in this area and who can tell you what the judge in your case is most likely to do.  We regularly appear in front of judges in Pinellas, Pasco, and Hillsborough counties, and also state-wide.  We can tailor your case to maximize the chances you achieve your goal– whether that goal is paying alimony or avoiding paying it.

 

All cases are different.  But in every case we work in your best interests to achieve your goals.   Little things make a big difference when it comes to alimony.  Even what happens right before the case is filed, and during the course of the divorce case, can make a big difference.  It is never too early to start planning for your divorce, and never too late to make changes that will help.  When you bring us on board to assist you, we will start working on these issues right away.

 

“Need” and “Ability to Pay” are the two most important factors in alimony.  No matter what the length of your marriage is, if the judge thinks the spouse asking for alimony doesn’t need it, they won’t get it.  Or, if the judge thinks the party who would pay alimony can’t afford to pay it, they won’t have to pay it.  So even though it is not listed as one of the “factors” in the statute, need and ability to pay are the two starting points for alimony.  We have had many cases where, on the surface, one spouse looked like they couldn’t afford to pay but upon closer examination we could prove they could pay.  Conversely, we have counseled many clients on how to properly document their finances so that they could prove they really can’t afford to make alimony payments.  Again, alimony is a really big deal and you should have an attorney on your side who can help you.  This is what we do!  Contact us so we can help you with your case.  Remember, an expert Board Certified divorce attorney is not an expense, but rather is an investment.  Invest in Mr. Radeline so he can help you in this stressful, complicated legal process.

 

After considering whether there is a need for alimony, and whether the paying spouse can afford to pay alimony, some of the other things the judge will consider are:

 

a.  The length of your marriage  the longer you are married, the more chance there is that alimony will come into play.  For example, a 3-year marriage has a smaller chance of alimony than a 20-year marriage.  The courts usually measure the length of your marriage from the date you got married until the date the divorce case was filed in court.

 

b.  The standard of living you had during the marriage  the goal of alimony is to try and keep the standard of living the same for the spouse receiving alimony.  This may or may not seem fair to you, depending on whether you are the spouse seeking or receiving alimony.  But keeping this factor in mind is critical.  If you are looking to avoid or minimize your potential alimony obligation, we can carefully examine the marital standard of living and take a hard look at how your ex is living now.  If you are seeking alimony, we have many techniques to demonstrate what you should be receiving to maintain your former standard of living.

 

c.  Your age  the younger you are, the less likely you will be awarded long-term alimony.  Ironically, the younger you are the more likely it is you may be ordered to pay long-term alimony.  The reason for this is because you would have more earning years ahead of you versus someone closer to retirement age.

 

d.  Your spouse’s age  the younger your spouse is, the more likely they will be ordered to pay you long-term alimony.  Ironically, the younger you are, the less likely it is your spouse will be ordered to pay you longer-term alimony.

 

e.  Your health  the healthier you are, the more likely you are to pay alimony and the less likely you are to receive it.  People with medical problems are, in the courts’ eyes, more in need of support to maintain their marital standard of living.

 

f.  Your spouse’s health  the healthier your spouse is, the more likely they are to pay alimony and the less likely they are to receive it.  People with medical problems are, in the courts’ eyes, more in need of support to maintain their marital standard of living.

 

g.  Your income and your future earning capability  the person asking for alimony must usually earn substantially less than the other spouse in order to have a high likelihood of having alimony awarded.  Future earning capability means how much each spouse is expected to earn into the future based on their education, experience, and job history.  For example, a spouse who is making little or no money as a student in medical school may currently make much less than their spouse who is making $30,000 per year.  But, the medical student’s future earning capability may be ten times what their spouse makes.  How do we prove something like that in court?  We use expert witnesses as necessary who can provide the specific testimony the court requires to prove what the future will probably look like, without a crystal ball.

 

h.  Your spouse’s income and future earning capability  sometimes a spouse is voluntarily unemployed.  They don’t want to work for whatever reason, and sometimes the reason is because they either don’t want to pay alimony or because they think they will be more likely to get alimony.  Either way, if your spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, we have strategies to get the court to impute income to them.  That means we can ask the judge to base alimony decisions as if your spouse was earning what they should be earning.  This is one of the many ways an experienced Board Certified divorce attorney can be a tremendous asset to you in your case.

 

i.  Your educational level  the higher the educational level of the spouse seeking alimony, the less likely they will receive alimony.  This is because that spouse already is finished with their education and is expected to be able to work in their field.  Conversely, if you have a high school education and your spouse is a doctor, you have an excellent chance of receiving alimony based on this factor.

 

j.  Your spouse’s educational level  the higher the educational level of the spouse seeking alimony, the less likely they will receive alimony.  This is because that spouse already is finished with their education and is expected to be able to work in their field.  Conversely, if your spouse is a doctor and you have a high school education, you have an excellent chance of receiving alimony based on this factor.

 

k.  The martial and non-marital assets awarded to you  if you are seeking alimony, and if there is a large award of marital assets to you, this may decrease the amount of alimony you will be awarded.  The reason is that the courts think you should be able to use some of your other financial assets (401(k), cash, stocks, real estate) to pay the bills, and that decreases the need for alimony.

 

l.  The martial and non-marital assets awarded to your spouse  if your spouse is awarded significant marital assets (401(k), cash, stocks, real estate), they may be expected to use some of those assets to maintain their standard of living and to pay their bills.  

 

m.  Whether you or your spouse took time off from work to raise children  taking time out of the workforce lessens that spouse’s earnings and ability to advance at work.  The courts take this into consideration when calculating alimony.

 

n.  Whatever makes it “fair and just”  how’s that for a wildcard!  This is where knowing your judge and having an excellent game plan is important.  Remember how we said that alimony is very touchy-feely and that it is not a science like child support?  Well, this factor really helps showcase why that is true.  This is where having an expert divorce attorney on your side makes a big difference.  There is a lot at stake–  contact us today to see how we can help.

 

How to win the alimony part of the same case can be totally different in one judge’s courtroom from another judge’s courtroom.  This is because judges are given so much leeway in making their decision.  This is a huge financial event in your life, whether you will be receiving or paying alimony.  You should have a Board Certified divorce expert on your side to help guide you through the process.  Call us today so we can assist you.

 

If your ex stops paying alimony as ordered by the judge, they can be held in contempt of court.  You can go back to court and have them ordered to pay you the correct amount of alimony, pay back what they owe you, pay you interest on the past due amount, and reimburse your court costs and legal fees.  If they refuse to comply, the judge has many options available, including fining them or putting them in jail until they comply.  

 

After your case is over, alimony can sometimes be modified.  Sometimes the paying spouse suffers a job loss, and needs to have alimony decreased.  Sometimes the receiving spouse can show they are entitled to an increased alimony award.  If alimony in your case was structured as non-modifiable alimony, it may not be possible to change the alimony award.  We would have to review your settlement agreement and final judgment to determine whether alimony can or cannot be modified under the circumstances of your particular case.  If your alimony award does not say non-modifiable, it may very well be modifiable.  We have handled many modification cases and can assist you in these regards.

 

If you can’t keep paying your alimony, then you should proactively move to modify the alimony award.  If you simply stop paying (or pay less than you should) then your ex is going to take you back to court.  You could be jailed, you could have to pay interest on the past-due amount, and you most likely will have to pay your ex’s legal fees.  But by proactively seeking a modification, you show the judge that you are trying to be responsible.

FAQ On Alimony

 

 

Will I get alimony?

The answer depends on a number of factors, all set out in the article.  One of the most important issues is whether you need alimony.  This needs to be proven to the satisfaction of the judge in your case.  We have many legal strategies to use to ensure that you can document why, and in what amount, you need alimony from your spouse.  Another important issue is how long you have been married.  There are several types of alimony.  While temporary alimony is available regardless of how long you were married, other types of alimony are more likely the longer you were married, and less likely if your marriage was shorter in length.  Other important factors include how much you earn, how much your spouse earns, what your educational level is, what your ex’s educational level is, if you have any physical disabilities, your age, and your spouse’s age.  It is a complex issue that we can assist you with.

 

How can I get alimony?

To get alimony, you usually need to file for divorce.  And you need to specifically request alimony in your divorce papers.  To get a hearing on your alimony request, you must first have a mediation conference in your case.  It can be very complicated.  If you need alimony, you owe it to yourself to have a Board Certified divorce attorney expert assist you with the sometimes confusing legal process.  

 

What is alimony?

Alimony is sometimes called spousal support.  It is a payment from one ex spouse to the other ex spouse and it is designed to help equalize the standards of living post-divorce.  It can come in one of several forms.  It can be a monthly payment, or it can be in a lump sum.

 

What is spousal support?  

Spousal support in Florida is another word for alimony.

 

Are alimony and spousal support different?

No, they are two terms for the same thing.

 

Will I have to pay alimony?

That is a simple question with a complex answer.  It depends on a number of factors, including whether your ex really needs alimony.  We have a number of techniques we use during the case to try and minimize the chances you will have to pay alimony, and if you do have to pay it, that it is in the smallest amount possible and for the least amount of time.  Have you ever heard the term “garbage in, garbage out”?  That’s an old computer term, but it applies here.  If your ex is gaming the system and using false information about their expenses and income, we can demonstrate that to the judge 

 

How to avoid paying alimony?

If your spouse is requesting it in the divorce, then it is on the table and you’re going to have to deal with it as one of the issues in the case.  You avoid paying it by demonstrating in court, using evidence, that your spouse is not entitled to alimony. That can take quite a bit of legal strategy and skill.  It’s not something we can answer here for you, because every case is different.  If you are facing an alimony claim from your spouse, we can help.

 

Is there an online alimony calculator?

Unlike child support, there is no scientific formula or calculator that can request certain information and then calculate how much the monthly alimony payment will be in any given case.  Part of the problem is that if you had the same exact circumstances and the same two spouses, you could get different alimony results from different judges in different courtrooms.  How can that be?  It is because alimony can be a huge gray area.  Legalese says it is within the broad discretion of the trial court.  Your judge will get to decide what they think is right and fair, within the factors that are discussed in the main article (length of marriage, need and ability to pay, standard of living, and the like).  Because alimony can be a very important part of your case, and because it is especially difficult for non-lawyers to predict, we recommend you have an experienced divorce lawyer on your side.  It is an investment, and not an expense, to have quality legal representation.  We have options for every budget.  

 

How much alimony will I get?

Like we just discussed, there is no specific formula for alimony.  Outside of factors such as the length of the marriage, it will depend in large part of what your needs are and what your ex is able to pay.  Note we said “able to pay” and not “willing to pay.”  There is a difference.  We can employ a number of tried and true strategies during the case to maximize the chances you are awarded alimony in an amount that will be significant in your life.  Conversely, if you think your ex may be seeking alimony from you, we can use strategies to try and minimize the impact of the alimony claim.

 

What if my spouse is lying about how much they make?

As you know from reading this website, how much money your spouse makes is an important consideration regarding alimony.  If your spouse is seeking alimony from you, and if they are underestimating how much they earn, then we can use a number of methods to prove how much they really are earning.  If they are underemployed or unemployed, we will ask the judge to impute income to them.  This means we will ask for the judge, for alimony calculation purposes, to assign them an income as if they were working in their field at an appropriate pay rate.  Imputing income requires testimony about your ex’s past job history, and many times requires expert witness testimony.  If you are seeking alimony from your spouse, and your spouse is underestimating how much they earn, we can use the same techniques to help prove they are really earning more than they have stated.  Many people conveniently forget to include bonuses, overtime, side jobs, investment income, and gift income when disclosing their income in court.  We can help make sure that we keep your spouse honest.

 

What if my spouse is lying about their expenses?

We see this happen often.  Spouses can lie about their expenses to attempt to alter whether or not there is alimony, and in what amount.  If your spouse is seeking alimony from you, they may artificially overestimate their expenses in an effort to show they need alimony from you.  We have seen spouses claim the full rent when they have a roommate, overestimate their insurance costs, fudge numbers regarding gasoline and auto repairs, and double count how much they pay for certain monthly expenses.  We can help you get to the bottom of what may appear to be fishy numbers.  Conversely, if you are seeking alimony from your spouse, your ex may overstate their expenses in an effort to prove they cannot afford to pay you alimony.  We have many techniques to cut right through those bogus expenses.  Remember, every dollar in bogus expenses could be an additional dollar that could be used to pay you alimony each month.  Imagine if there were hundreds or even thousands of dollars in inflated expenses.  We have seen that happen often, and we can help you achieve a fair outcome in court.

 

Alimony isn’t fair!

We hear you.  If you are the spouse who would potentially be paying alimony, it certainly can appear to be unfair.  And many times it is not fair.  Remember, it is a courthouse and not a “fair house.”  So how do you fight back?  You document everything, you review and challenge everything thrown at you by your spouse, and if at all possible you have an experienced Board Certified divorce attorney at your side.

 

How to Change My Alimony?  Or, Can I get more alimony?

In many cases, after your case is concluded alimony may be modified.  If you are the one paying alimony and you suffer a job loss, you would want to decrease or suspend your alimony payments.  If you are receiving alimony, if you have additional support needs, and if your ex spouse is well-able to contribute to them, you would want to increase your alimony award.  Whether it can or cannot be modified depends on your circumstances and on what your settlement documents and/or final judgment say about the issue.  Remember, these may be written in legalese.  We speak legalese.  Let us help.

 

What can I do if I’m not getting my alimony?

If your ex has stopped paying the alimony they are court-ordered to pay, or if they are paying you a lesser amount, you can take them back to court.  When you go back to court, you can ask for the past-due amount (plus interest!), future ongoing payments, and reimbursement of your court costs and attorney’s fees.  Plus, if they still don’t comply, the judge can put them in jail until they do comply.

 

I can’t afford to keep paying alimony!

If you cannot afford to keep paying alimony, you should proactively seek a modification from the court.  If you simply stop paying, or if you pay less than you should pay, then your ex will most likely file contempt charges against you.  The judge has legal authority to put you in jail until you make things right financially with your ex, including interest and including paying your ex’s attorney’s fees.  If you don’t like the idea of paying your ex, then paying you ex’s attorney would be even worse!  Seriously, the judge will take a lot more kindly to you if you proactively try to address the situation in court rather than simply making your own rules.  We can help you out.  

 

What are some examples of things that a Judge would look at to determine if I am to pay or receive alimony?

The Courts consider the length of the marriage, the needs of the spouse requesting alimony, the ability of the other spouse to pay and each spouse’s earnings, earning capability, health, education, and other factors.

 

Why do I have to give my ex any money?

You only have to pay alimony if you agree to do so, or if you are ordered to do so by a Judge.  If you are looking to win on the alimony issue you should have an experienced attorney assist you in the case.

 

Do I have to pay alimony if I have only been married for less than 2 years?

The likelihood of paying long-term alimony is small, but your spouse could request temporary alimony regardless of the length of the marriage.

 

What if my spouse and I both completed college and we both make the same amount of money. 

 

Who would pay alimony?

While it is not a guarantee, spouses with similar educations, earnings and earning capabilities may not have any alimony awarded in the case.

 

If I have custody of our children, is it possible I could still have to pay alimony to my ex?

Yes, it is possible.  Timesharing is not a factor the court will consider when it comes to a determination of alimony

 

Can my spouse or I seek alimony after a divorce has been finalized?

No, if you didn’t request alimony in the original case and the case is now over, you most likely have forever waived your ability to seek alimony.

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