For those who are contemplating a Florida divorce, alimony remains one of the most hotly debated and frequently litigating topics. In light of major changes to the Tax Code, alimony is no longer allowed as a tax deduction for the individual paying it. However, it is now taxable as income for the recipient. This came about as part of a sweeping reform effective January 1, 2019. Florida divorce attorneys are often asked to calculate alimony for clients, and it is now becoming a much more contentious issue.
What is Alimony?
It is important to put the concept of alimony in perspective. The idea is that people tend to grow together as a couple. After many years of marriage, one spouse may have earned more money, while the other person tended to children, the home or other matters. The lesser-earning spouse often gives up career opportunities, educational programs and the ability to increase earning potential. Meanwhile, the other spouse makes more money and becomes more capable of increased wealth. Thus, upon splitting, there will be a disadvantage to one party. Alimony is designed to acknowledge and compensate for that disparity.
Types of Alimony in Florida
In general, there are five kinds of alimony that a court can award in a Florida divorce. Alimony is based on both the need of the recipient and the ability of the higher-earning spouse to pay. The types of alimony are generally as follows:
- Permanent – This is alimony that is paid for the rest of one’s life. In Florida, this only applies where the marriage lasted at least 17 years, or in some cases even for shorter marriages of seven to 17 years when other factors exist.
- Periodic / Duration – This type of alimony is used in situations in which a marriage was too short for permanent alimony to be appropriate but where a long-term period of payment is necessary. A court typically awards payments for about half of the length of the marriage. In no event can this alimony exceed the length of the marriage.
- Gap – Even in shorter marriages with younger spouses, there could be a need to retrain or obtain suitable housing or a new career after years out of the workforce. A court may order this type of alimony based on a specific amount of time to get a new job, relocate or achieve some other form of independence. Usually this will not exceed two years.
- Rehabilitative – This is similar to the gap bridging type of alimony, in that it is designed to help people get back on their feet after divorce. It can be used for the same reasons as before – to retrain or find new employment.
- Temporary – Finally, if the marriage is shorter in duration and the case is going to be ongoing for a while, temporary alimony is paid during the divorce in order to help the lesser-earning spouse stay afloat. It ends at the end of the case.
Because alimony became more expensive to both sides after the 2019 tax law changes, it is wise to strongly consider if there are alternative means to satisfy the need for financial support. Many times, a larger property distribution may avoid the tax consequences of alimony. Typically, alimony is subject to negotiations. Other times, if the parties cannot agree, the type and duration of alimony will be set by the court. If you are concerned about alimony or how it will apply in your specific case, call The Law Offices of Matthew J. Jowanna, P.A. today to speak with an experienced divorce attorney who can guide you each step of the way.