In the aftermath of a Florida divorce, one of the former spouses may require financial support. In this
situation, the higher-earning spouse may be required to provide economic assistance to the person who
earns less. In the Sunshine State, this is known as alimony. It is one of the most important aspects of the
divorce process and requires close attention when determining finances during a split.
Occasionally referred to as spousal support, alimony was originally designed to help the lesser-earning
ex-spouse, with the assumption that this person may have acted as homemaker and not consistently
received an income. Today, this court-ordered payment more frequently is meant to help the lower-
earning spouse adjust to a difficult new reality: one income instead of two. That being said, alimony can
take many forms and is tailored to account for a wide array of personal and family situations.
Florida’s Five Types of Alimony
In Florida, alimony arrangements fall into one of five main categories. Spouses can work together to
arrive at a mutually-beneficial solution that falls within one of these solutions, but many struggle to do
so. In such situations, the court will evaluate options and decide on their behalf.
Numerous factors may be considered by Florida courts, such as each spouses earning potential and the
length of the marriage. Typically, a short-term marriage is thought of as lasting less than seven years,
while moderate marriages will have lasted between seven and seventeen years. This leaves a
designation of long-term for marriages exceeding seventeen years.
Confused about the various types of support and how they might play into your divorce? Below, we’ve
outlined the main types of alimony in Florida, as well as examples of situations in which each of these
arrangements might be preferable.
If the name of this solution is any indication, it’s meant as a short-term fix to help spouses get by during
the divorce process. Under this approach, support is granted after the divorce is filed and until it is
finalized. This brings divorcing parties much-needed peace of mind during what can otherwise be an
incredibly stressful ordeal. After this, recipient spouses may be eligible for one of the other types of
Bridge the Gap Alimony
Bridge the gap alimony should not be confused with its temporary counterpart, although both are
meant as short-term solutions. Bridge the gap, however, continues after the divorce has been finalized.
Designed to ease the transition from married to single life, bridge the gap alimony is limited by nature. It
automatically ends as soon as the other spouse passes away or remarries. Otherwise, bridge the gap
alimony lasts just two years. This approach is not common in other states but remains available in
Similar in many respects to bridge the gap, this version of alimony is meant for divorcing spouses who
are in the process of ending short-term marriages — or those of a moderate length. As with bridge the
gap, the intention is to support the lesser-earning spouse until that person is able to support him or
The stereotypical situation for rehabilitative alimony involves a primary caretaker who previously left
the workforce to care for children. This person may now struggle to find both work and childcare. Unlike
bridge the gap, however, there is no two-year limit. Rather, alimony may continue until the recipient is
ready to proceed without support. For rehabilitative arrangements to be approved, the recipient needs
to develop a clear plan to demonstrate how self-sufficiency will ultimately be achieved.
Typically awarded after short-term marriages, durational alimony is limited to a specific amount of
time — or, as its name indicates, a particular duration. This is a desirable option when the recipient
needs support for a certain amount of time but does not qualify for permanent alimony. Under this
approach, the time in which alimony is received should not exceed the length of the marriage itself.
When many spouses picture alimony resolutions, they imagine permanent arrangements. In reality,
however, this type of alimony is exceedingly rare in Florida. In the occasional cases in which permanent
alimony is awarded, it’s reserved for spouses who have been married for at least seventeen years — but
it’s most likely to involve those married for several decades who also have extenuating circumstances.
When determining whether former spouses should receive alimony on a permanent basis, courts
consider whether they have any potential whatsoever to become self-sustaining. The need for
permanent support may be established when the recipient spouse is disabled or of an advanced age
that would make finding full-time work more difficult.
When contemplating the approaches to alimony referenced above, keep in mind that many efforts to
reform the state’s divorce process have been pursued. For now, however, the five-category alimony
system remains relevant and should be considered carefully when determining how to proceed with
Factors That Play Into Florida Alimony
Florida courts take a variety of factors into account when determining whether alimony is warranted —
and if so, which type should be provided. While no specific formula exists at present, most alimony cases
follow a predictable pattern. This usually involves a two-part test:
First, the court determines whether the person requesting alimony actually needs it from a
Next, the court must ascertain whether the other party is capable of providing support.
Both sides are expected to submit evidence of their claims. Factors worth considering include:
The age and health of both parties
How long the marriage lasted
The spouses’ shared standard of living while married
Each spouse’s current economic situation
The ability of each spouse to earn a living
Available income from investments or other sources
Responsibilities to children or dependents with special needs
How each spouse contributed to the marriage in regards to childcare or homemaking
Adultery typically does not play into alimony considerations — with one exception: if the spouse who
engaged in an adulterous relationship used marital funds for this purpose, the court may deem this a
waste of resources. This could play into the other spouse’s favor but does not automatically guarantee a
better alimony award.
Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to alimony in Florida. This lack of official guidance can feel
frustrating at times, but it comes with a major silver lining: spouses can secure tailored arrangements
that fit the unique realities of their lives both prior to and after divorce. Given the complications that
come with Florida’s approach to alimony, however, it’s incredibly important to work with a skilled
attorney when making arrangements for the future.
Modifying Alimony in Florida
Former spouses’ personal or financial circumstances can change extensively after getting divorced, to
the point that it may prove necessary to modify previous alimony arrangements. Approved
modifications could lead to increases or decreases in payments. In some cases, alimony is terminated.
Top reasons for seeking alimony modifications include:
Involuntary loss of income. Those who experience a sudden and unexpected loss of income
may no longer be capable of handling alimony payments. Voluntarily quitting a job or incurring
debt are not typically deemed valid reasons for modification, but those who are laid off may be
able to obtain reduced alimony requirements.
Supportive relationship. If a former spouse receives alimony but enters into a new relationship
involving combined finances, Florida courts may conclude that the alimony recipient no longer
requires financial support. In these situations, the need for modification is determined on a
case-by-case basis. Courts may look closely at whether the new partners share assets or
otherwise act as a married couple.
Options for Collecting Alimony
In an ideal arrangement, the party who is required to provide alimony will reliably make payments as
agreed upon. Often, however, former spouses outright refuse to pay alimony. In other cases, they make
it exceedingly difficult for the recipient to obtain these funds. In either situation, enforcement may
Wage garnishment is a common solution for securing alimony payments from an unwilling former
spouse. Under this arrangement, alimony can be deducted directly from the non-paying individual’s
salary. Similarly, income from trusts or even pensions can be garnished to ensure that alimony payments
are received as initially arranged.
Working With a Florida Alimony Attorney
Whether applying for alimony, seeking a modification, or pursuing enforcement action, it’s important to
work with a skilled attorney. The ideal Florida alimony lawyer will provide guidance every step of the
way. The need for exceptional support applies regardless of whether divorcing spouses work together to
make alimony arrangements — or rely on Florida courts to determine these arrangements. Compassion
is an essential quality, as this can be an emotionally overwhelming process.
Don’t underestimate the role strong legal representation can play in your divorce. You’ll never regret
seeking assistance from a Florida alimony attorney who cares — and who is willing to fight assertively on
To schedule an appointment, contact Forefront Law in
Jacksonville today at (904) 733-9080, or contact us online.