Take Control Blog

Alimony Calculation — Guidelines and Example

Alimony or spousal support is a payment to a spouse in need of financial support by the spouse who has the economic ability to pay the support.

“Often the most pressing questions my clients have regarding alimony is how it’s calculated and if it can be changed or modified after the divorce,” says family law attorney Carolann Mazza.

The answer to these questions depends on the type of alimony award.  As per Florida Statute 61.08, there are four types of alimony, with each having its own unique characteristics:

  1. Bridge-the-gap.  Is awarded to assist a party in the transition out of married life. The purpose of this type of alimony is to assist an individual with legitimate, identifiable, short-term needs and the award may not exceed two years.  Bridge-the-gap terminates upon the death of either party or the remarriage of the person receiving the alimony.  The amount or duration of this type of award cannot be modified.
  2. Rehabilitative.  Is awarded based on the prospects for the receiving spouse to be rehabilitated and thus becoming self-supporting.  The length of the award depends on the time needed for rehabilitation..Unless otherwise stated or agreed to, rehabilitative alimony can be modified or terminated.  This type of alimony can cease upon the death of either spouse or the expiration of the rehabilitation period, but not necessarily on the remarriage of the spouse receiving the support.
  3. Permanent.  Is more common in longer-term marriages (those lasting 17 years or greater) where one spouse has diminished prospects for rehabilitation or becoming self-supporting.   It can even be awarded in cases where the spouse receiving alimony can work, but can’t earn enough to maintain the same standard of living.  Unless otherwise specifically stated or agreed to, permanent alimony can be modified and ends upon the death of either party, the remarriage of the spouse receiving the alimony, or if the receiving spouse is in a supportive relationship.   Any modification is based on either party experiencing a permanent, involuntary change in circumstances that would warrant a change of the alimony awarded.
  4. Durational.  May be awarded when permanent alimony is not appropriate.  This type of award provides economic assistance for a set period of time, if there is no need for spousal support on a permanent basis.  As with permanent alimony, the amount awarded under this type of alimony may be terminated or modified.  However, the length of the award may not be modified except under exceptional circumstances and may not exceed the length of the marriage.

Once the need of one spouse for alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay is determined by the court, the following are also considered when determining an alimony award:

  • The standard of living enjoyed while married.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • Age, earning ability, health, education level and the employability of each party.
  • Value of the respective financial estates, including non-marital and marital assets/liabilities distributed to each party
  • Personal sacrifices and contributions made during the marriage.
  • The responsibilities that each spouse will have in relation to minor children they have in common.

With so many factors considered and no two divorces being alike, alimony awards can vary widely.  This means that while there are multitudes of alimony calculators available on the Internet, none of them will provide you with an “actual” figure that you can use or count on as a reasonable estimate of what the court will award.

“Because alimony is uncertain,” Mazza says, “parties that reach their own agreement regarding alimony can have more certainty and flexibility than when a judge makes the decision for them.”