Florida Alimony Changes as of January 1, 2019
After January 1, 2019, alimony will no longer be tax-deductible to the payer and taxable to the recipient. Off-the-top deductions for alimony payers will no longer be available. Individuals who are required to pay alimony will have to pay much more. To the spouse receiving the alimony, however, alimony will no longer be counted as income. The new alimony tax laws go into effect only for divorces finalized after January 1, 2019. Existing alimony agreements will not be affected by the bill, as it is not retroactive.
In many divorce and modification cases, alimony is a contentious issue. It is common for parties to ask how much alimony they will have to pay.
Legally, Florida calculates alimony based on need and ability to pay. In other words, the court must determine whether the spouse receiving alimony has a need and whether the spouse paying alimony can pay.
There is no concrete formula for calculating alimony in Florida. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers created a formula to estimate alimony since this definition is somewhat ambiguous.
To estimate alimony, the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers uses 30 percent of the payer’s gross annual income subtracted by 20 percent of the payee’s gross annual income. If the spouse pursuing alimony has a need, then the court will determine whether the other spouse can satisfy that need, in part or in full. Alimony is usually determined based on the surplus or deficit on each party’s financial affidavit.
Florida law does not enact this formula; it is merely a recommendation. In addition, most judges do not follow the formula but may use it as a guideline. Alimony obligations are only calculated monthly, not over a period of time. Below is a discussion of the length of the alimony award.
- The court may award permanent alimony or lifetime alimony following a marriage of long duration (17+ years), following a marriage of moderate duration (7-17 years), or following a marriage of short duration if there are exceptional circumstances. Permanent alimony is typically awarded only after 17 years of marriage. Permanent alimony may still be awarded if the marriage has lasted less than 17 years.
- When permanent periodic alimony is inappropriate, durational alimony may be awarded. Durational alimony cannot exceed the span of the marriage. It is common for courts to order durational alimony for a period of time equal to half the length of the marriage. Nevertheless, the court may award alimony up to the full duration of the marriage.
- A party may be awarded bridge-the-gap alimony to provide support during the transition from being married to being single. There is no limit to the length of a bridge-the-gap alimony award, and it is intended to assist parties with legitimate short-term needs.
- In some instances, rehabilitative alimony can be awarded to help the recipient achieve self-sufficiency. An alimony award may not exceed the length of the rehabilitation plan, which often includes plans to receive education or training to develop necessary employment skills.
- The purpose of temporary alimony is to provide temporary support during the case. It is not possible to extend temporary alimony beyond the duration of the case.
A person receiving alimony will cease receiving payments upon their death or remarriage.
Permanent alimony can’t leave the payer with significantly less net income than the recipient. To change your alimony award, you will need to file a petition.
On a case-by-case basis, the court will consider the monthly income compared with the expenses of the party requesting alimony to determine whether there is insufficient money to meet their needs.
If the court determines that one party needs alimony and that the other party can pay it, the court will determine the type and amount of alimony they will receive.
Alimony is determined based on several factors, including (but not limited to):
- The living standard established during the marriage
- Marriage duration
- Each person’s current age
- Each person’s physical and emotional condition
- Assets and liabilities of each party, including non-marital assets and liabilities
- Both parties’ earning capacities, education levels, and vocational skills
- A person’s ability to acquire sufficient education or training to secure an appropriate job if necessary
- The length of time spent out of the job market
- Alimony-related tax consequences
- Any children and their ages
An alimony award may be secured by a life insurance policy purchased or maintained by the person paying the alimony.
Using your income as a calculation factor, you can determine how much alimony you owe or receive.
For an accurate Florida alimony calculation, you must take into account all sources of income, including:
- Earnings from employment
- Retirement benefits
- Interest and dividends
There is no formula for calculating alimony that is 100 percent accurate. A family attorney can assist you in determining the amount that is most appropriate for you.