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"Alimony" is another term for spousal support. In order for a judge to award any form of alimony, the paying spouse must have a significantly higher income than the recipient spouse., the recipient spouse must have demonstrated a need for alimony, and the paying spouse must have the financial ability to pay it. Alimony is distinct from child support, and is awarded to spouse to assist her/him with reasonable living expense in accordance with the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, but with consideration given to the paying spouse's new separate living expenses. Typically, the services of a C.P.A. are required in any case involving rehabilitative alimony and/or permanent periodic alimony.

The following are the four basic types of alimony recognized in Florida:

  1. "Temporary alimony" is alimony which may be awarded during a divorce lawsuit (i.e., from the date of filing a divorce lawsuit until the entry of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage). A judge can award this alimony at a hearing for temporary relief and/or at trial. If awarded at trial, a judge can make the temporary alimony retroactive to the date of filing if appropriate.

  2. "Bridge-the-gap alimony" is a form of lump sum alimony usually awarded in a short marriage where one spouse earns much more than the other, and where the poorer spouse has a need for specific short term alimony (that is, to "bridge-the-gap" from going from married to single). A judge could ordered one spouse to pay several month's rent and utility deposits for the other spouse's new apartment, and alimony for a certain period of time months after the final judgment of divorce.

  3. "Rehabilitative alimony" is generally awarded in a "gray area marriage" (that is, a marriage which is neither long nor short in duration) and in which the recipient spouse is fairly young and healthy and has sacrificed a career for the other spouse's career advancement and/or the parties' child/ren. Although there is no statutory definition of what constitutes a "gray area marriage," it can be a marriage of say more than five years but less than a marriage of say seventeen years. A judge has the right to combine bridge-the-gap alimony with rehabilitative alimony if needed. A vocational rehabilitative expert should be hired to present and testify as to a rehabilitation plan (i.e., the degree sought, the estimated total cost including books and supplies, the total time needed through any certification and through estimated date of employment).

  4. "Permanent periodic alimony" is what most people think of when hear the word alimony. It is generally awarded in a long term marriage. However, it can be awarded in a short term marriage if certain facts exist such as the recipient spouse's disability, particularly if it occurred during the marriage, and/or if the recipient spouse is elderly and/or ill. A judge has the right, in appropriate circumstances, to award a combination of rehabilitative alimony and/or bridge-the-gap alimony with permanent periodic alimony. A C.P.A. should be hired to determine the parties' typical economic "lifestyle" during the marriage (typically, a one year period) as well as the incomes and monthly expenses of the parties.

Florida Statute 61.08(2) requires a judge to consider the following factors when determining a spouse's entitlement to alimony as well as the nature and amount of the alimony:

(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
(d) The financial resources of each party, the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities awarded to each party.
(e) If applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(f) The contribution which each party made to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
(g) All sources of income available to both parties.

Unlike child support, alimony can be a taxable event under the Internal Revenue Code (unless otherwise agreed by the parties in writing) if the parties reside separately, the alimony is stated to terminate upon the death of either spouse, among other requirements. For income tax purposes, the paying spouse can deduct alimony from his/her income, while the recipient spouse must include the alimony as her/his income. When I represent a recipient spouse, I will have a C.P.A. or other financial person, if possible, determine the taxes owed on the alimony, and then seek an amount of alimony to include the tax liability.

Permanent periodic alimony automatically ends upon the remarriage or death of the recipient former spouse or the death of the payor former spouse (unless the payor former spouse's estate was obligated by written settlement agreement).

A former spouse receiving alimony can seek an increase after the entry of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage. Significant factors justifying an increase would be a significant decrease in the receiving former spouse's income, a significant increase in the paying party's income, and/or significant increased financial needs of the receving party. The reverse of the above scenarios would, of course, justify an alimony reduction.

The Florida Legislature revised Florida Statute 61.14 in 2006 to address the issue of a former spouse, who receives permanent periodic alimony, lives with, but does not marry, a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whether living together is sufficient to justify a decrease or terminate permanent periodic alimony must be decided by a judge on a case by case basis. The above statute provides that the paying former spouse can reduce or terminate alimony if he/she proves:

(a) the couple used the same last name and held themselves out to public as “husband and wife;”
(b) the length of time the couple has resided together;
(c) time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode;
(d) whether either of the couple has financially supported the other, and for how long;
(e) whether the couple shares in anything of value, such as real estate;
(f) whether either of the couple has voluntarily provided support for the other’s child(ren) even though not legally obligated to do so.

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