Take Control Blog

The Truth About Alimony and Child Support

Mention the word “divorce” to most people and the first things that come to mind are alimony and child support.  And as you might suspect, there are many misconceptions surrounding both topics, which tend to be based on “hearsay” from the divorce experience of relatives and friends.

“In general, people’s only reference point with regards to alimony and child support is from what they’ve seen in the media or heard from friends and family,” says Carolann Mazza, a family law attorney based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.   “However, it’s important that the parties to a divorce fully understand each of these and how the law will apply in their case.”

Alimony

The Florida statutes and the written legal opinions of the Florida appellate courts define divorce law in Florida.  The Florida divorce law statute can be found in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statues, with alimony (or spousal support) detailed in Section 8 of Chapter 61.  Alimony is a payment to a spouse in need of financial support by the spouse who has the economic ability to pay the support.  Once the need of one spouse for support and the
ability of the other spouse to pay has been determined by the court, the following are also considered when making 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 responsibility that each spouse will have in relation to minor children they have in common.

For the purposes of determining an alimony award, the following rebuttable presumptions apply:

  • Short-term Marriage.  A marriage with duration of less than 7 years.
  • Moderate-term Marriage.  A marriage lasting more than 7 years but less than 17 years.
  • Long-Term Marriage.  A marriage with duration of 17 years or longer.

As per the Statutes, there are four types of alimony:

  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.
  2. Rehabilitative.   Is spousal support paid, also for a limited period of time, so as to allow for the education and training of a spouse who is capable of becoming economically self-supporting.
  3. Permanent.  Is a periodic payment from one spouse to the other.  Its purpose is to provide support for the financially needy spouse during that person’s lifetime.
  4. Durational.  This type of alimony 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.

While these are each individual types of alimony, any combination of the above can be considered in an alimony award.  The alimony payments can be made periodic, in lump sum or both.

Child Support

As noted above, the Florida statutes and the written legal options of the Florida appellate courts define divorce law in Florida.  The Florida divorce law statute can be found in Chapter 61 of the Florida Statues, with child support guidelines detailed in Section 30 of Chapter 61.

Parents have a legal duty and moral obligation to support and educate their children, which includes providing them with adequate food, clothing, shelter and the basic necessities of life.

“It is important for parents to understand that children have a right to child support, which differentiates this support from alimony,” notes Mazza.

This obligation continues until a child is no longer dependent on the parents.  A dependent child is one who relies on the parents for support.  The reasons for the dependency could be:

  • The child is under the age of 18.
  • The child has a mental or physical disability that prevents self-support.
  • The child is in high school, between the age of 18 and 19, with a reasonable expectation of graduation before the age of 19.

Child support is money paid by one spouse to the other for the support of their children.  The amount of child support awarded is in accordance with the child support guidelines, which take into account the combined net income of the parents and the number of children.

The guidelines provide a method for determining each parent’s income for the purposes of calculating the child support.  First, each parents’ gross income is calculated.  Form this amount, certain expenses are subtracted to arrive at the net income for each parent.

For example, if the combined monthly net income of the parents is $2,600 that entry in the child support guidelines schedule would be as follows:

Monthly Net Income

One
Child

Two Children

Three Children

Four Children

Five Children

Six Children

$2,600

$568

$880

$1,101

$1,242

$1,354

$1,447

So if the parents have one child, for example, the monthly joint child support responsibility would be $568.  Each parent’s percentage of the child support is determined by dividing each parent’s monthly net income by the combined net monthly income of both parents.

A judge is permitted to adjust child support under certain circumstances, which may include, among others:

  • Extraordinary expenses of a child, such as for medical, psychological or educational reasons.
  • Expenses due to a disability.
  • The age of the child, since older children have greater needs.
  • Total assets of the parents and the child.
  • Childcare costs.
  • The child’s healthcare costs.