While thinking about spousal support, many people worry about the amount of money that they may have to pay or receive. If a spouse must pay too much, divorce could destroy their financial health. If a spouse must receive too little, they would also suffer as bills pile up. How does the state determine the right amount?
Florida’s alimony code sets forth a few basic guidelines. While divorce settlements can vary, a family law court relies on this model to ensure a fair agreement between both spouses.
First, the court must decide if it should order alimony at all. This decision depends on many factors such as the duration of the marriage, each spouse’s education level and ability to work, their health, sources of income outside of the marriage and the gap between each spouse’s current incomes.
Next, if the court orders spousal support, it must figure out an appropriate payment plan. According to the law, the person who receives alimony should not have a higher total income than the one who pays. It would not make sense to award significant support to one spouse who already has more income than the other.
Another key consideration is the “standard of living” for the spouse who receives alimony. For example, a wife developed severe chronic nerve pain and depends on shared marital income. Her husband, who makes $170,000 per year, has a greater ability to maintain a similar lifestyle after they divorce. Because the wife expected to share this income, her financial planning did not account for the sudden changes of divorce. A court may decide that she deserves enough alimony to enjoy a similar level of benefits as in marriage.
The right amount of spousal support is different for every couple. Ask an experienced attorney if you have concerns about spousal support. Although a settlement can give couples more control over this agreement, it is not always possible to avoid court.