In the event of a divorce, everyone is fully aware of the harsh emotional experience. In most cases, hurtful things are said and many character defects are quickly brought to the surface. At the same time, if the subject of alimony is on the table, a gargantuan level of uncertainty and financial stress is added to the equation. While the issue of calculating the alimony award amount is completely in the hands of the court, most spouses are at least concerned over the factors taken into consideration in determining the monthly spousal support payment. Simply put, there are several factors taken into consideration when determining the amount and type of spousal allowance. In order to gain a better understanding of these considerations, the following information highlights and explains some of the most common factors and the role these factors play in Florida divorce courts.
1. Standard of Living
When a judge determines the alimony payment, one of the factors the court examine is both parties' standard of living. With the overall goal of maintaining the lifestyle obtained during the marriage of both parties, the court thoroughly examines all parties' financials and assets. Most notably, the court reviews the value of assets such as homes, vehicles, and any other type of possession of value. Also in this equation is the couple's recreational lifestyle, such as vacationing habits. Simply put, the higher or more expensive the lifestyle of the couple, the higher the probability alimony will be awarded. This factor is even greater in long term marriages.
2. Time Married
As a general rule of thumb, the longer the couple has been married, the larger the amount of spousal support will be awarded. In the State of Florida, marriage terms are explained in the following three categories:
● Long Term Marriage is considered to be a marriage longer than 17 years
● Moderate Term Marriage is considered to be a marriage longer than 7 years but
less than 17 years.
● Short Term Marriage is considered to be a marriage less than 7 years.
When it comes to permanent alimony, it is typically awarded only in situations qualifying as a long term marriage.
3. Condition of Both Parties
When the court determines whether alimony will be rewarded, the mental and physical condition of each party along with their age is taken into consideration. In situations where one spouse is older, disabled, or suffering from health problems, the likelihood of receiving alimony is increased. At the same time, someone who is in relatively decent health and is younger would be less likely to be awarded alimony.
4. Financial Resources
In the State of Florida, monthly spousal support is based both on the spouse's need for financial support and the ability of the other spouse to meet those needs. In discerning financial ability, the financial resources of each spouse is examined including nonmarital and marital assets. The presiding judge will take into consideration every financial resource available to both spouses. For example, the judge would indeed include one spouse's pre-marital corporate holdings as a factor to consider in the case. In addition, the judge would also consider any type of trust funds dispersing income on a regular basis.
5. Professional Capacity
Another factor affecting spousal support payments is the professional earning capacity of both spouses. The earning capacity includes factors such as education, professional experience, skills, and the employability of both spouses. Primarily, the professional capacity consideration examines whether a spouse has the ability to earn a living in the event they are not working at the time of the divorce. In other words, this consideration involves determining whether the spouse has the ability to work. At the same time, a spouse who is able to work but is unemployed could receive spousal support payments toward rehabilitative practices. For example, if one spouse did not finish their education and doesn't have a job, the spouse could become independent with vocational training. In this event, rehabilitative alimony would be in order.
6. Individual Contributions to the Marriage
Each spouse's contribution to the marriage is also considered in determining monthly alimony payments. Since several spouses make contributions other than financial, the court recognizes actions such as child rearing, homemaking, and the efforts given toward the career building of the other spouse. This consideration is given because in the place of financial contributions, the spouse dedicated significant efforts toward the improvement of the family and marriage. Examples of this type of consideration are a husband who resigned from his job and relocated when his wife accepted a new job. Another example is a homemaker staying home to exclusively maintain the household and take care of the family.
7. Future Parenting Responsibilities
In Florida, the court presumes parenting rights will be mutual unless the potential of harm for the child exists. All of these factors play a role in determining alimony. Major decisions involving time-sharing, religious and educational needs, and medical and health needs are all factored into determining payment.
8. Tax Implications
In most cases, receiving Florida alimony qualifies as taxable income. At the same time, the spouse paying the alimony can the write the payment off as a tax deductible expense. All of the tax consequences and treatments of both spouses are used in determining the award amount.
9. All Sources of Income
The courts also factor in every type of income a spouse receives in determining awards, which includes investments. For example, if one spouse has a portfolio proven throughout time to earn the spouse a 10% return, the historic returns could be used as additional income and be factored into figuring the monthly spousal support payment.
In any case, the court can use the committed act of adultery by either spouse into determining the alimony payment. In addition, the court can also include the circumstances of the adultery in denying an award or setting the award amount.
If you are ready to talk to one of our attorneys about your current alimony payments and what factors may be affecting those payments, contact us today.