In Florida, there are five different types of spousal support that courts can award during a divorce. Couples can also reach their support agreement, however. It’s only if there is a disagreement that the judge will step in and decide which, if any, of these support types to apply.
The courts in Florida take the position that each marriage has two spouses, both enjoying the same standard of living. After that marriage ends, the spouse with higher earning power has a duty to maintain that standard of living for the other spouse (rather than let the other spouse fall to a lower standard of living and potentially seek government resources and assistance).
Temporary Spousal Support
Temporary spousal support is awarded to the lower-earning spouse to see them through the divorce process. If the lower-earning spouse can demonstrate need and the other spouse has the means, the court can order this type of support.
Once the divorce is finalized, however, temporary support ends.
Florida is one of a few states that makes this type of support available. Bridge-the-gap spousal support is meant to help the lower-earning spouse “bridge the gap” between married and divorced life.
This type of support can only last for two years and is typically used when, for example, waiting for the family home to sell or seeking full-time employment. Once the two years are up, or if the supported spouse remarries, the bridge-the-gap support ends, and no further alimony is due.
Probably the most common type of support in Florida — and across the U.S. — rehabilitative support is meant to allow the lower-earning spouse to become fully self-sufficient through retraining, education, or career advancement.
The party seeking rehabilitative alimony has the burden of proof to show a rehabilitative plan, including cost, duration and how that plan will, ultimately, lead to that spouse becoming self-sufficient. Though the plan should include an estimate of how long the support is needed, rehabilitative support is not strictly limited to a length of time.
Durational spousal support is a relatively new category of support in Florida that awards support for a set time. This period can be reviewed by the court and modified (though only in extreme circumstances) and cannot exceed the length of the marriage.
An example of when this type of support may be appropriate is when, for example, the children of the marriage are under 18 at the time of the divorce. The lower-earning spouse may request durational support for a number of years until all the children reach 18 at which time they can return to work full-time.
Permanent Spousal Support
Permanent spousal support is rare in Florida.
To qualify for permanent support, the marriage must have lasted for more than 17 years — barring certain circumstances such as disability of the spouse or caring for a disabled child — and the spouse seeking support must demonstrate difficulty becoming self-supporting.
In Florida, there is a rebuttable presumption that permanent spousal support shouldn’t be awarded in marriages of less than seven years and that it should be awarded in marriages of greater than 17 years.
When the marriage was a long one, the spouse who would pay support can rebut the presumption that permanent support is proper by demonstrating assets or earning power of the other spouse to maintain their standard of living without support.
The legislature in Florida recently passed a bill ending permanent alimony in the state, but the governor vetoed the bill in June 2022.