Florida Alimony Award too Low to Allow Wife to Maintain Lifestyle Enjoyed During Marriage

A Florida trial court’s award of alimony to a wife was thrown out recently by the 2d District Court of Appeal for being too low. The appeals court concluded that the trial court’s outcome, if put into action, would leave too great a disparity between the ex-spouses and would force the wife into a lifestyle below that which she enjoyed during the couple’s marriage.

A couple┬ádecided to end their 28-year marriage in 2011. Although the wife had a master’s degree and had been the primary earner through much of the marriage, her job at the time of the divorce paid only $29,000 annually. The husband was making $280,000 per year by 2011.

With regard to her need, the wife submitted documents to the trial court, alleging that she had in excess of $21,000 in expenses per month. The court decided, however, that her expenses were closer to $4,800 per month and set the husband’s alimony at $1,571 per month.

The wife appealed and was successful. The appeals court explained that the purpose of alimony was about more than just meeting the financial needs of the spouse who requested support and was designed “‘to maintain the standard of living established by the parties during the marriage and to ensure that… one spouse is not ‘shortchanged’.” Maintaining the standard of living meant that the requesting spouse, to the extent possible, could continue enjoying the lifestyle she previously had while the couple was still married.

The appeals court found that the trial court’s ruling in this case fell short of this standard. The appeals court pointed to a 2010 case, Zinovoy v. Zinovoy, which had a similar set of circumstances. The wife made $15,000 per year and the husband $460,000. In that case, the appeals court rejected the trial court’s assessment of alimony at $6,300 per month because, even with the alimony, the wife was taking in only $7,600 per month, as compared to the husband’s $32,300 per month. That disparity was too large to be “commensurate with the standard of living established by the parties during the marriage.”

Another flaw with the trial court’s reasoning that the appeals court identified was that it analyzed the wife’s needs based upon the lifestyle she maintained following the couple’s separation. The correct analysis would have focused on what the wife needed to maintain the sort of lifestyle she had during the marriage and prior to the separation.

Earlier in February of this year, both the state Senate and the House of Representatives introduced bills that would reform the way alimony works in Florida. The reform bills would eliminate awards of permanent alimony. They also define reaching Social Security age as a “substantial change in circumstances,” which the law requires in order to reduce or eliminate alimony payments.

The process of determining alimony is intended to arrive at a fair result for all involved. But often reaching that fair result requires having an experienced and aggressive legal team on your side. To protect yourself and your loved ones, contact the South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. about your alimony dispute.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule a confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Appropriate Alimony Awards and the Length of Your Marriage, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 10, 2014
Alimony Not Proper If Spouse Lacks the Ability to Pay, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Dec. 10, 2014

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