Some legal experts consider Florida’s alimony statute [§ 61.08(5), Fla. Stat.] to be a maze, since it provides for four separately named types of specialized spousal support (alimony): Bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent. For most laypersons, it is quite difficult to read through the statute and determine which type of alimony, if any, applies to a given situation.
Many have never heard of “bridge-the-gap” alimony at all. What is it? When can it be ordered by the court?
Bridge-the-Gap: A Temporary Form of Alimony
Under the statute, bridge-the-gap alimony may be awarded to assist a party’s transition from being married to being single. It is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs. The length of a bridge-the-gap alimony award may not exceed two years.
Court First Determines Actual Need and Ability of Other Party to Pay
As the court must do when considering any type of alimony, the court must first make a factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony, and whether either party has the ability to pay it. Only if these two questions are answered in the positive does the court move on to consider the award of bridge-the-gap alimony.
If the need and ability to pay have been established, then in determining both the (a) proper type (i.e., bridge-the-gap) and (b) amount of alimony, the court must consider the relevant factors detailed in § 61.08(2), Fla. Stat. Those factors include some of the following:
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party
- The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment
Adultery May Be Considered
The court is specifically permitted to consider any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties. In case you wondered, the statute specifically states that adultery may be considered in determining the amount of alimony.
Other Incidents of Bridge-the-Gap Alimony
Since an award of bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to assist a party with legitimate identifiable short-term needs, the award may not exceed two years. Moreover, the award may not be modified either in amount or duration, except that the award automatically terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.
Is a Divorce in Your Future?
Have you determined that a dissolution of your marriage is necessary? Are you concerned that you may need an award of some form of alimony to make ends meet? Did you contribute non-monetary services in homemaking, child care, education, and career-building of your spouse during the marriage? The Duval/St. Johns County area law firm of Beller & Bustamante, P.L. can help you sort through your situation. We can assist in determining what is in your best interests (and the best interests of your child or children). We have the skill and experience to represent your interests vigorously when it comes to any family law issue. Contact us online or call us at (904) 288-4414 today.