In recent weeks, we have discussed various types of Florida alimony on this blog: “bridge-the-gap” alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent periodic alimony. These are all types of spousal support that Florida courts may award in a divorce to meet various needs. But what about when spouses are living apart during a divorce, and one needs financial help to get along? That is where temporary alimony in Florida comes in.
Temporary alimony in Florida recognizes that a lower-earning spouse may need financial support between the time the divorce is filed and the time that a final order in the case, the divorce decree, is signed by the judge.
When is Temporary Alimony Awarded?
While some types of spousal support are only available in moderate- or longer-term marriages, spousal support may be awarded even in short-term marriages if other factors warrant it.
Like other types of alimony in Florida, the decision to award temporary alimony is a balancing act between need on the part of one spouse, and ability to pay on the part of the other. The person seeking temporary alimony must be able to demonstrate that he or she has actual financial need. Even if the spouse seeking alimony can prove need, the court cannot award temporary alimony if doing so would deprive the other spouse of the ability to support him- or herself. In one Florida case, the wife was awarded temporary alimony that exceeded 90% of the husband's monthly net income. On appeal, this award was reversed, as it clearly exceeded the husband's ability to pay.
You may be asking yourself just what level of “need” justifies an award of temporary alimony. The answer is: it depends. A temporary alimony award depends largely on the standard of living of the spouses during the marriage. If, while married, the couple lived in a large house in an upscale neighborhood due to the income of one spouse, it is unfair to expect the other spouse to have to move to a small, run-down apartment when the divorce is filed if the high-earning spouse continues to live in luxury. Florida courts are not supposed to order temporary alimony that exceeds the documented need of the spouse requesting it, however, no matter how much money the paying spouse has.
Speaking of income: you may be surprised to learn that a court can impute income to either spouse when evaluating a request for temporary alimony. A court may impute income when a party could reasonably be earning income at a certain level, but is not. An extreme example would be someone licensed as a physician working at a minimum wage job in order to reduce their income and avoid paying support. While Florida courts can and do impute income to parties where appropriate, they are not supposed to order a paying spouse to make temporary support payments in excess of their imputed income.
Trial courts (courts that decide divorces) have pretty broad discretion when making awards of temporary alimony. Even so, a ruling regarding temporary spousal support must be supported by “competent, substantial evidence.” In other words, a trial court has the flexibility to do what it thinks is fair in this area, but it needs to be able to back up its decision. That said, in Florida, courts of appeal are very reluctant to disturb the ruling of a trial court on temporary alimony. So if you are seeking temporary alimony, or opposing your spouse's request for temporary alimony, it's important to have knowledgeable representation and to get things right at the trial level.
Temporary spousal support is, as its name suggests, intended to be a temporary measure. Temporary alimony awards are merged into a final divorce judgment and do not continue after the divorce is final. It is important for a spouse who expects to need continued financial support to make sure it is provided for in the divorce decree. Again, an experienced Florida alimony attorney can help to make sure that your divorce judgment provides for your ongoing needs after the divorce.
If You Have Questions About Temporary Alimony in Florida
If you think that you may need temporary spousal support, or that your spouse may request that you pay temporary alimony, you need a knowledgeable attorney in your corner. Even though temporary alimony lasts only for a limited time, your attorney can make a significant difference in the outcome of your spousal support matter. Get in contact with us at The Florida Divorce Law Group to schedule a free consultation.