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How Permanent Alimony Works During Retirement in Florida

A woman consulting a divorce attorney in Florida about alimony.

In July, 2023, Florida eliminated permanent alimony as a category from its divorce statute. Going forward, alimony payments in Florida will be based on set terms. Payments will expire either after a specific amount of time has passed or once specific conditions have been met. This means that spouses can now plan for an end to alimony, as opposed to the previous system under which those payments could (and often did) last throughout your working and retired life. Existing alimony agreements will not automatically change under this law, although parties can petition the courts to modify their divorce agreements on a case-by-case basis. Here’s what you need to know.

A financial advisor can help you create a financial plan to navigate through and after a divorce.

What Is Permanent Alimony?

Alimony is a system of spousal support and maintenance that is typically ordered when spouses get divorced. These are payments made by one spouse to the other for a period of time after the divorce. In general, a higher-income spouse will pay alimony to a lower-income spouse. Unlike dividing assets and child support, alimony is not automatic, but is instead awarded by divorce courts on a situational basis. 

In general, alimony is intended to help one spouse get back on their feet after a divorce. For example, say that one spouse worked while the other maintained the home. The working spouse will typically owe alimony payments so the nonworking spouse has an opportunity to rebuild their own earning potential without facing a total loss of income.

Historically, there have been four general categories of alimony:

  • Temporary. The alimony payments last for a period of time and can sometimes end if the recipient remarries; often called Durational.
  • Transitional. The alimony payments last through a specific set of conditions, such as the recipient going back to school or getting job training; sometimes called Rehabilitative.
  • Reimbursement. The alimony payments are structured around repaying the recipient’s specific contributions to the marriage, such as if they supported the now-higher-earning spouse during school or the early years of a business. 
  • Permanent. The alimony payments last for the recipient’s life and can sometimes end if the recipient remarries or enters a financially-supportive relationship.

Historically, permanent alimony was the standard model, given its purpose as a substitute income for the ex-wife. Most, if not all, jurisdictions applied a version of this law. 

Over time, states dropped the gendered requirement of alimony, allowing men to receive payments from higher-earning ex-wives. In recent decades, an increasing number of states have dropped permanent alimony altogether. This reflects a modern economy in which men and women can access the job market after a divorce, with alimony increasingly intended as a bridge rather than a permanent income.

Alimony in Florida

A woman reviewing documents for alimony in Florida.

Historically, Florida has recognized four categories of alimony:

  • Bridge-the-gap. Transitional alimony to achieve a short-term purpose, intended to last for two years or less.
  • Rehabilitative. Transitional alimony to achieve a longer-term purpose, intended to last for a longer period of time but built around a specific program or goal.
  • Durational. Temporary alimony that lasts for a specific period of time, typically defined as a percent of the duration of the marriage.
  • Permanent. Lifetime alimony that continues until the recipient dies or remarries.

In July 2023, Florida modified its divorce statute and eliminated permanent alimony. 

This system had come under increasing criticism in recent years. Among other issues, critics noted that it required individuals to support former spouses throughout their retirement, often forcing people to continue working in retirement to afford these payments. Critics also noted that it was relatively easy for recipients to informally cohabitate with a new partner, without getting married, which let ex-spouses enjoy the benefits of both lifetime alimony and functionally joint finances. 

Under the new law, courts can still order bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony largely as before. However, instead of lifetime payments, all general alimony will now be durational. Alimony payments can last for:

  • Short-term marriages (less than 10 years): No more than 50% of the duration of the marriage
  • Moderate-term marriages (10 – 20 years): No more than 60% of the duration of the marriage
  • Long-term marriages (more than 20 years): No more than 75% of the duration of the marriage

For example, if you were married for 10 years, alimony payments in Florida now can last no longer than either:

  • The amount of time necessary to achieve a specific goal (bridge-the-gap or rehabilitative) 
  • Six years (durational)

The exact duration and amount of alimony payments are determined on a case-by-case basis. Courts will account for a wide variety of issues when making this determination, including both the payer’s income and the recipient’s age and employability. As another example, a 40-year-old recipient in good physical and mental health will likely receive a relatively brief series of payments to tide them over while they find work. By contrast, a mentally infirm 58-year-old may receive longer alimony payments, or even rehabilitative payments structured to last indefinitely, based on the idea that they probably cannot support themselves. 

Under the new law, recipients can no longer request alimony to support their standard of living. While courts can consider fairness and general matters of equity, a recipient no longer has an enforceable right to their lifestyle.

Permanent alimony orders that pre-dated the July, 2023 law remain unchanged. However, parties have a right to request a modification of their alimony agreements. For ex-spouses making payments under the former Florida law, it may be worth consulting a divorce attorney to see if they have grounds to reopen and amend their agreement.

Bottom Line

A man researching types of alimony in Florida.

Permanent alimony is a system of alimony payments that lasts until the recipient dies or gets remarried. In Florida, permanent alimony was eliminated in July 2023. Now, instead of lifetime payments, all general alimony is durational. But state courts can still order bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony.

Tips on Managing Divorce

  • Divorce financial planning is a specialized approach that addresses the financial aspects and goals of individuals before, during and after a divorce. Here’s how it can help you plan your finances before, during and after a divorce.
  • A financial advisor can help you build a comprehensive retirement plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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