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Alimony Awards: When Is It Awarded, and When Do the Payments Start?


Figuring out how to start over and reorient one’s life after divorce is one of the most difficult transitions a person will ever make. The end of a marriage is not an easy thing to contemplate, and financial worries are often at the forefront of concerns divorcing individuals need to address. This is especially true for spouses that left the workforce to raise children or made other professional sacrifices during the course of their marriage. Trying to re-enter or ramp up employment opportunities following a divorce could take years or may never happen at all. In these situations, it is common for the spouse with fewer financial resources to request spousal support, or alimony, from the higher earner in order to maintain a reasonable standard of living. However, alimony awards are not automatic and will only be granted after the court weighs a number of factors. Further, there are several types of alimony recognized under Florida law, and the circumstances of each case will dictate which one is appropriate. Understanding the basics of alimony law is important to deciding if this support is available in specific cases, so an overview of this issue, and the mechanics of when a court is permitted to order payments to start, will follow below.

Alimony Awards

When a party requests alimony as part of a divorce case, the first issue the court must address is deciding whether the party requesting support actually needs it, and whether the other party has the financial means to pay it. Once this hurdle is crossed, the judge next looks a long list of factors to determine if facts of a particular case warrant an alimony award. Some of the factors considered include:

  • the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • the financial resources of both parties;
  • the earning capacities of each party;
  • the contribution of each party to the marriage, including child rearing and household duties; and
  • the amount of child care responsibility each party will have for their children.

If the court decides that alimony is appropriate, it must then work out which of the four types of alimony apply to a particular case: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. It is important to note that a large component of this analysis is linked to how long a couple was married. The length of the marriage often directs which type of alimony the court will choose.

Bridge-the-gap alimony is awarded as a temporary source of financial support, and is intended to help a person make the transition from married to single. The award cannot exceed two years and must be tied to an identifiable short-term need.

Rehabilitative alimony exists to help a party with financial needs while they obtain and/or update skills needed to find employment and become self-supporting. There must be a rehabilitative plan in place when the alimony award is issued.

Durational alimony is granted when permanent alimony is improper and only lasts for a specific period of time. It is typically awarded for short or moderate length marriages, or for longer marriages where long-term support is unnecessary.

Finally, permanent alimony is usually reserved for marriages lasting longer than 17 years when one party lacks the ability to provide their own financial support, and requires the court to make a specific finding that no other type of alimony is appropriate.

When Do Payments Start?

Parties seeking spousal support can petition the court for alimony as part of the divorce decree, or can seek support in a petition unconnected with divorce if a spouse ceases to provide necessary financial support. Payments usually start from the date the court order awarding alimony is issued, but judges have the authority to order retroactive alimony from the date the petition was filed.

Talk to Family Law Attorney

Are you getting divorced and have questions about alimony? Talk to a family law attorney to learn what your legal options are, and how the complicated Florida law on alimony works. The Tampa law firm of Bubley & Bubley, P.A. understands the stress these situations brings, and works to obtain the best outcome for you and your family. Contact us for a free consultation.

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