Rehabilitative alimony is intended to provide funds to the requesting spouse so that he or she can establish the capacity for self-support, either by redeveloping previous skills or undergoing training or education necessary to develop supportive skills. Canakaris v. Canakaris, 382 So. 2d 1197, 1202 (Fla. 1980); Lovell v. Lovell, 14 So. 3d 1111, 1115 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009). Courts use rehabilitative alimony as a tool to provide a spouse with support for a limited duration while the spouse improves earning capacity. In Canakaris, the Florida Supreme Court recognized that a trial court has “broad discretionary authority to do equity between the parties and has available various remedies to accomplish this purpose, including lump sum alimony, permanent periodic alimony, rehabilitative alimony, child support, a vested special equity in property, and an award of exclusive possession of property.” Id. at 1202. These remedies (alimony, child support, etc.), are interrelated so that rehabilitative alimony is one of several options a court can consider in helping a spouse become independent.
A court cannot award rehabilitative alimony unless the requesting party presents evidence of a valid rehabilitation plan that would support an alimony award. Hill v. Hooten, 776 So. 2d 1004, 1006 (Fla. 5th DCA 2001), citing Fullerton v. Fullerton, 709 So. 2d 162, 164 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998). In Hill, the trial court awarded the wife 36 months of rehabilitative alimony, however, the wife failed to present evidence during the hearing that she possessed a rehabilitation plan or that after the 36 months were complete, the wife would be able to earn an income to support herself. Id. at 1006. The appellate court reversed, noting that the rehabilitative alimony award was not based on a rehabilitate plan which would support the award. Id. at 1006.
Courts generally grant rehabilitative alimony for a certain period of time or until a specific goal has been met. Layeni v. Layeni, 843 So. 2d 295, 299 (Fla. 5th DCA 2003), quoting Brock v. Brock, 682 So. 2d 682 (Fla. 5th DCA 1996)(holding that a “viable rehabilitative plan must be presented at the time the request for rehabilitative alimony is made.”) Because rehabilitative alimony is a projection based on assumptions and probabilities, courts generally require the rehabilitative plan be in writing. Id. citing Fullerton, 709 So. 2d at 164. Even so, rehabilitative plans may be orally presented to the court. Layeni, 843 So. 2d at 299 (recognizing that an award of rehabilitative alimony should not turn on whether the rehabilitative plan is oral or written).
Parties seeking rehabilitative alimony must present the trial court with an adequate and credible rehabilitative plan. Id. at 299. Furthermore, the requesting party must demonstrate his or her need for alimony and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Id. citing Bryan v. Bryan, 765 So. 2d 829 (Fla. 1st DCA 2000); Calderon v. Calderon, 730 So. 2d 400, 402 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999).
In Lovell v. Lovell, the Fifth District remanded a trial court award of rehabilitative alimony as the award was not based on a rehabilitative plan. Lovell v. Lovell, 14 so. 3d 1111, 1115 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009). The trial court awarded the wife rehabilitative alimony in the amount of $4,000 for eight years. The wife testified that she intended to seek a master’s degree that would cost approximately $30,000. In remanding back to the trial court, the appellate court in Lovell noted that wife had not made an application to any graduate schools nor had she taken the graduate school entrance examination. According to the appellate court, the wife’s oral rehabilitative plan was “sparce on details, but rich on aspirations.” Id. at 1116. The Lovell opinion illustrates the importance of having a solid rehabilitative plan in place, preferably in writing, if a party intends to seek rehabilitation alimony.