West Palm Beach Alimony & Spousal Support Lawyer
West Palm Beach Alimony Lawyer
Alimony, also called spousal support, refers to the amount of money a former spouse is required to pay his or her ex during or after a divorce. It is not automatically awarded in all divorces. Instead, the party seeking alimony needs to make a compelling case why he or she should receive the payments. The idea behind alimony is to try to provide some financial stability to the party unable to support himself or herself after the marriage ends.
- Alimony Reform
- Modifying Alimony
Decades of Experience Protecting My Clients’ Financial Interest
I am West Palm Beach alimony lawyer William Wallshein with more than 38 years of legal experience. I have handled highly contested alimony cases in Florida courts. I will fight to ensure that you are treated fairly, whether you are entitled to receive support or are obligated to pay. I aggressively protect my clients’ rights, while encouraging you to discuss your concerns with me in a caring, open environment. My ability to blend a friendly approach with zealous advocacy is something on I pride myself on. Contact my divorce law firm to learn how I can protect your financial interests during a free consultation in West Palm Beach.
How Is Alimony Determined in Florida?
Unlike child support, which is largely determined by mandatory guidelines, spousal support is largely up to the discretion of the judge. Many factors are considered, including:
- Need and ability
- Length of the marriage
- Age of both parties and their health care needs
- Likelihood the party seeking alimony can support themselves at a standard comparable to their marriage
- Each party’s contribution to the marriage, in terms of child care, helping the other party build a career and services rendered in the home
- Number of dependents each party has
Types of Alimony
Alimony awards are a significant issue in many divorces. There are five types of alimony in Florida: alimony pendente lite, bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony, each with different durations and purposes. The court may order any one type of alimony or a combination. If you are considering a divorce and are concerned about the alimony award, you should contact a family law attorney today.
Alimony Pendente Lite
Alimony pendent lite, also known as temporary alimony, is designed to provide for a spouse who is not self-supporting during the period between filing for dissolution and the final divorce decree. This type of alimony ends upon the finalization of the divorce.
Bridge-the-gap alimony is short-term alimony that helps a spouse transition from marriage to single life. To get a bridge-the-gap alimony award, a spouse must show a legitimate, identifiable short-term need, such as needing money while waiting for a house to sell or while applying for jobs. This type of alimony may last for up to two years. It cannot be modified, but it terminates if the payee spouse either dies or remarries.
Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide for a spouse until he or she can become self-sufficient. For example, it may be awarded if one spouse needs time to get an education, vocational training, or work experience. Often, rehabilitative alimony is awarded when one spouse has sacrificed education or a career to raise children.
This type of alimony requires a specific and detailed rehabilitative plan. The spouse must also provide information regarding the time and money needed to complete the plan.
Rehabilitative alimony may be modified if:
- There is a substantial change in circumstances;
- The spouse does not comply with the rehabilitative plan; or
- The rehabilitative plan is completed.
Durational alimony is intended to support a spouse for a set time after a divorce. It may be awarded in a short-term (under seven years) or moderate-term (seven to 17 years) marriage, or in a marriage of long duration (over 17 years) if there is no need for permanent alimony. The length of the alimony may not exceed the duration of the marriage.
The amount of durational alimony may be modified upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances, but the length may be modified only in exceptional circumstances. Durational alimony terminates upon the death or remarriage of the payee spouse.
Permanent alimony allows a spouse to maintain standard of living established during the marriage if the spouse cannot become self-supporting to a level that would maintain a lifestyle close to the marital standard. It is awarded in long-term or moderate-term marriages. The court must consider statutory factors, including the standard of living during the marriage, the duration of the marriage, and each spouse’s earning capacity. If exceptional circumstances are shown, permanent alimony may be awarded in a short-term marriage, as long as the court finds that no other type of alimony is just.
The amount or duration of permanent alimony may be modified if there is substantial change in circumstances or if the payee spouse enters a supportive relationship, one in which the partners cohabit, and the other partner is financially supportive. Permanent alimony terminates on the payee spouse’s death or remarriage.
Alimony Factors Considered in Florida
Over the last few years, the topic of alimony reform has been at the center of family law issues. This is because of the ever-growing balance between men and women in not only the professional realm but also in the domestic arena. Women are becoming more and more educated and becoming a greater force in the professional world. Men are also becoming more and more involved with the domestic responsibilities and are espousing the idea of joint parenting. This type of equality has led to many questions about the longevity of alimony, when should it be awarded, and for how long? If you are considering a divorce and are looking for advice on going forward, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.
Alimony in Florida can currently be granted to either party regardless of gender. If the court finds that either party is in actual need of alimony or any type of maintenance, the court will review the following elements to determine how much, how long, and in what form alimony will take:
- The standard of living while the marriage was taking place;
- How long the couple has been married for;
- The age, physical and emotional health of each party;
- The financial earnings, potential earnings, and employment opportunities of each party
- The current contribution to the marriage, the family, children and all marital assets and liabilities possessed by the couple;
- The educational level or vocational skills of each party; and
- If there are any additional factors that would need to be evaluated in the name of fairness, equity, and justice.
Marriage Durations in the Alimony Context
Duration does have a significant impact on the award of alimony. According to Florida law:
- A short duration marriage is any marriage of seven years or less,
- A moderate duration of marriage is any marriage longer than seven years but shorter than 17 years, and
- A long duration of marriage is any marriage longer than 17 years.
Change in Circumstances and its Impact on Child Support and Spousal Maintenance
When a marriage is dissolved and divorce proceedings are initiated, a divorce settlement covers the daily life and financial particulars of the legal dissolution of marriage. The couple must determine the equitable distribution of property and debts, they must determine who will own the house, how they will co-parent, and any spousal maintenance or child alimony that must be paid to make sure the quality of life for the children does not suffer. Once the particulars are outlined in the divorce settlement and both parties and the court have approved of the arrangement, then life continues with the divorce settlement governing the family life.
However, nothing in life is static, and there will be certain life events that affect the divorce settlement agreement, especially the child support and alimony payments. These life changes will make it appropriate to modify the divorce agreement so that equity is maintained and neither of the parents feel that the other is receiving an unjust benefit that was originally not perceived as unjust. If you believe that your ex-spouse has a change in circumstances that would affect your spousal maintenance payments or child support payments, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.
What Qualifies as a Substantial Change in Circumstance in Family Law?
Courts are generally hesitant to change the details of a divorce settlement especially when they feel that one of the parents is trying to get another bite of the apple after everything that has been signed and dotted. However, where life circumstances warrant a change, a modification may be requested. These life changes are known as “changes in circumstances.”
A change in circumstance has been evaluated by the Florida Supreme Court in previous family law cases that have surface as a result of new changes in circumstances, in hopes of gaining child custody. The case law has put forth that a change in circumstance is considered substantial where the person that is seeking to modify the specifics of a divorce agreement must show that there has been a material change that affects the original divorce agreement, and this is the type of change that was not previously contemplated during the creation of the original divorce agreement. When it comes to child custody, it must also be determined whether the type of material change adversely or positively impacts the best interest of the child.
Florida’s Change in Circumstances in Child Support Context
In Florida statute, the law provides a list of some types of changes in circumstances that might be substantial enough to be considered a substantial change in circumstances. Where the modification is looking to change the child support payments, the court will review the following to determine whether or not it constitutes a substantial change in circumstance:
- The income or earning potential of one of the parents change;
- The mental, emotional, physical abilities of one of the parents change and the parent is no longer considered fit to have custody over a child;
- The needs of the child(ren) have changed;
- The standard of living or quality of life of the child(ren) has changed; among others.
Florida’s Change in Circumstances in Spousal Maintenance Context
Where one of the parties is receiving spousal maintenance, or alimony, a change of circumstance may also modify the amount that the party will receive. These changes could refer to:
- The party that is receiving alimony is cohabiting with or has remarried another person;
- The economic circumstances of either of the parties has changed (such as a new job or new earning potential);
- One of the parties has a mental, emotional, or physical impairment that affects their ability to pay alimony or there needs to be an increased amount of alimony to cover the new issues that the party suffers from; or
- The death of one of the parties, among other factors.
Alimony and a Voluntarily Underemployed and Unemployed Spouse
Divorce can become acrimonious easily and quickly. With the division of a family, the financial and non-financial aspects of marriage are dissected and reviewed to determine the most equitable arrangement that would put both parties in a good position. However, there are circumstances in which the parties may have a hard time being put equal, maybe because one party was the breadwinner while the other party was working in the home and raising the children. When there is disparity in potential and actual earnings between the partners, the courts look to provide some form of alimony, or spousal maintenance, that will make sure that one party is not more advantaged by the divorce, while the other party is left destitute. If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, it is important to speak with an experienced family law attorney.
When One Party is Voluntarily Unemployed or Underemployed
When one of the parties is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, the courts look to determine the factual circumstances surrounding the unemployment/underemployment. If one spouse just did not work as a matter of preference, the Court will evaluate that factor when determining the future of alimony. The court, for example, will most likely never require one spouse to support another spouse interminably just because the spouse does not voluntarily want to work. The arrangement, however, may be different if the other spouse does not have the power to make a livable wage, either due to age, a physical or mental impairment, or other hardship that will be considered by the court.
Factors Courts Analyze to Determine Whether to Impute Income for Alimony Purposes
There have been circumstances in which one party, the breadwinner, decides that he or she does not want to give his or her ex-spouse a significant amount of money from his or her annual earnings, and decides instead to leave a job that earned $120,000 per year for a job that earns only $40,000 per year. Generally, the average amount of income earned annually by the breadwinner will be computed and used by the court to determine alimony and how much the breadwinner can afford per year for the other spouse. However, even if the breadwinner decides to take a cut in salary to keep alimony payments low, the Court will analyze the extent to which the breadwinner took this earnings cut to limit alimony payments and determine how to ensure fairness between the spouses.
For example, if the breadwinner decides to quit his or her job and become unemployed, the court may still require the breadwinner to pay if the court finds that the unemployment is voluntary, and the breadwinner has not taken a good-faith effort to find employment that is equal to and/or better than what he or she was previously earning. The court will analyze the breadwinner’s qualifications, the types of jobs readily available in the area, and to what extent the breadwinner is job-hunting to find the job that satisfies the court’s analysis.
According to Florida law, if a spouse has the ability to contribute to alimony and support, he or she must take steps to do so. Though there is no statute that mandates that income need to be imputed from the underemployed or unemployed spouse for alimony, judges may use their discretion to mandate the imputation of income.
Contact a West Palm Beach Spousal Support Attorney
Whether you are seeking or paying alimony, make sure your rights are protected. Call 561-533-1221 or contact my divorce law firm online to schedule a free consultation. My West Palm Beach office is near I-95 and PGA Boulevard.