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Alimony: What is the Right Amount?

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Alimony in Florida is one of the more frequently discussed topics in family law of late as there have been several proposed legislative changes in recent years. One of the most common questions that we receive is, “will I have to pay alimony to my spouse?”

The answer to this question depends completely on the facts of your case. Florida Statute§ 61.08 tells us that the court’s determination of as to whether to award alimony to a spouse in a dissolution of marriage proceeding will depend on:

 1) one spouse’s need for alimony from the other, and;

 2) the other spouse’s ability to pay alimony.

In essence, does the spouse have enough money to meet his or her needs? If not, does the other spouse have enough money to financially assist that other spouse? If your case meets this criterion, the statute then states that the court must determine the type and amount of alimony to be paid. In order to reach this determination, the court will consider the following factors:

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.

(b) The duration of the marriage.

(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.

(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.

(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.

(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.

(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.

(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.

(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.

(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

The judge in your case obviously has a fair amount of discretion in determining the amount, type and duration of alimony. However, I am often asked for my opinion as to the appropriate amount of alimony, especially when it comes to settlement negotiations. This is a very sensitive area as it is imperative to ensure the payor client is not overpaying or that the payee client is not accepting less than s/he may be entitled. Florida Statute does not give us a formal calculation to use in calculating alimony, as with child support. However, your attorney should be able to give you advice as to a potential range that s/he would foresee the judge ordering, if you were to go to trial.  This advice will help the client to come to more confidently engage in settlement negotiations if s/he wishes to avoid trial.

I cannot emphasis how important it is to have sound advice regarding alimony before signing an agreement. I have had far too many clients consult with me after they have committed to pay alimony that they cannot afford, or, conversely, have agreed to accept too little alimony. The best practice is to make sure you are in the loop on the front end of the deal. After you have signed an agreement and finalized your divorce, a petition for modification would need to be filed in order to request that the alimony amount in your case be increased or decreased. In order for the court to change your alimony award or obligation, you need to prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since your divorce was finalized. This is especially problematic if an individual agreed to pay more alimony than s/he could afford or to accept too little alimony, and cannot show that court that anything has changed since the divorce was finalized.

Don’t stay in the dark regarding your alimony situation. Make sure you educate yourself before making decisions with lasting legal ramifications. Call today to schedule your consultation so that we can discuss your options in regard to alimony.