Your spouse may agree that you made the sacrifices that supported his or her career success and may have expressed gratitude over this fact. However, now that you are divorcing, sharing that significantly higher earning potential with you in the form of alimony may have lessened the appreciation of your contribution. Understanding the ins and outs of spousal support may help both of you to approach the table with reasonable expectations so you can come to an agreement without a court battle.
What kind of support do you need?
One thing the court considers, and which you should, too, is whether you actually need the financial support in order to maintain the standard of living you enjoyed during your marriage and whether your spouse has the ability to pay it. If you can answer both of these questions with a "yes," then you may think about what type of alimony is necessary. For example, in Florida, alimony may fall into categories such as:
- Bridge-the-gap: helps you with short-term needs as you transition to single life. Does not last more than two years.
- Durational: may last for the same amount of time as the marriage.
- Permanent: is usually considered if you will be unable to meet your own needs.
- Rehabilitative: supports you while you learn the skills you need to become self-sufficient.
The payments may be monthly but could also come in a single lump sum, depending on the type that is appropriate.
How long were you married?
The number of years you were married can make a big difference in the outcome of an alimony discussion. If you are filing for divorce after 17 years or more, there is a greater chance that a court would consider long-term or even permanent support. After a short-term marriage of seven years or less, your circumstances or earning potential may not have been affected much - a factor that the court finds important when awarding alimony. A moderate-term marriage of seven to 17 years may warrant any of the above types of support, depending on your situation.
What else does the court consider?
Relevant topics to your discussion include whether you have children, how extensive your marital assets are and what the tax consequences of alimony will be for each of you. While alimony is not punitive, the court does weigh factors that contributed to the end of your relationship, including adultery. Discussing this and other emotional topics with your spouse as you work toward an agreement may be difficult. However, if you choose an attorney who offers mediation, or cooperative or collaborative divorce options, he or she may be able to help you focus on the logistics and realistic ideas of the outcome so that you and your spouse are able to handle the process amicably.