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Articles Posted in Alimony

In some divorce scenarios in Florida, the court may award sole occupancy of the marital home to one spouse and order the other spouse to make the payment on that home if the latter earns the bulk of the income. Judges are allowed to do this and frequently do. If you’re the spouse making the payment, it is important to recognize that you are entitled to certain benefits for meeting that expense. To make sure that you are getting all the credit you deserve for fulfilling this financial obligation, be sure that you have skilled representation from an experienced South Florida divorce lawyer.

The contested divorce of V.M. and L.M. is a good example. After the two divorced, the trial judge granted the wife exclusive occupancy of the house until the couple’s child reached age 18.

The order also placed the obligation for paying the mortgage and the HOA fees on the husband until the child reached the age of majority.

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Changes in the law happen all the time. Whether it is a new ruling from an appeals court or the Supreme Court or a new bill from the legislature, the law continues to shift and evolve. That fact is one of the many reasons why having the right legal team on your side in your divorce case in Florida is essential. The right Florida divorce lawyer will not only be able to provide you with thoughtful advice about your case but also base that advice on the latest, most up-to-date knowledge of the law.

Alimony reform is again in the news in Florida as legislators once again debate the potential for modifying state law to eliminate permanent alimony here. Florida remains one of just a very few jurisdictions where a court can award permanent alimony to a divorcing spouse. (The others are Connecticut, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.)

A bill that recently cleared an important hurdle in the House of Representatives would change that. HB 1559 would alter Florida’s alimony laws and remove permanent alimony as an option. The current reform proposal would allow for bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony. The longest possible duration any alimony award could run would be a period equal to one-half of the length of the marriage.

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Comedic takes on family law disputes, like the country song called “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft)”, are common in popular culture. That song, which teaches that “alimony” rhymes with “baloney,” is one of many where one party believes that the outcome was grossly one-sided and unfair. Here in Florida, there are certain statutory safeguards to help ensure that the outcomes the legal system produces in real life are not ones where the supported spouse exits the marriage “living large” while the supporting spouse is destitute. When it comes to ensuring your financial security in divorce litigation, make sure you have representation from an experienced South Florida family law attorney to provide you the protection you deserve.

There are several rules that Florida law imposes on awards of alimony. If an award violates any one or more of these, then that error may allow you to get the ruling overturned. One of those rules, contained in Section 61.08(9) of the Florida Statutes, says that an “award of alimony may not leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient” except in cases of “exceptional circumstances.” That rule played a key role in one recent divorce case from Palm Beach County.

Each of the spouses had their own forensic accountant and each had markedly different views on the family road maintenance business. The wife’s accountant told the court that the husband earned more than $15,200 per month and the wife had a monthly need of more than $9,500.

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If you and your spouse are married for only a relatively short amount of time, you probably don’t expect to owe your spouse permanent alimony. However, permanent alimony is available to some spouses in Florida, even in cases where theirs was a short-term marriage. If your short-term spouse is seeking permanent alimony from you, make sure you have the skilled legal advocacy you need from an experienced South Florida family law attorney to defeat this claim.

When your short-term spouse seeks permanent alimony from you, the law starts out on your side. If your marriage lasts seven years or less, Florida law considers that to be a “short-term” marriage and creates a presumption that permanent alimony is not proper. A “presumption” means that, at the outset of the case, before the court hears any evidence or arguments, it presumes that your spouse should not receive permanent alimony.

A spouse can overcome that presumption and get permanent alimony in a short-term marriage situation, but to do so requires a special evidentiary showing, so you need to be prepared to present the arguments and proof necessary to demonstrate that the presumption has not been overcome, as one Jacksonville-area husband did in his recent alimony case.

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Talk to enough people who’ve been through contentious divorces and, at some point, you’ll probably hear about how the person’s “no-good, low-down, miserable excuse for a spouse” lied on the stand, got away with it, and got the “better end” of the divorce outcome. Oftentimes, these complaints are just the verbal expressions of generalized frustration about having been through the painful process of divorce. However, a question remains: what happens if you discover documented proof that seems to indicate that your spouse did lie during his/her trial testimony, but you only came into possession of that proof after the final judgment? Fortunately, even after your divorce is finalized, you still have options. An experienced South Florida family law attorney can help you choose the best approach based on your specific situation.

A recent Orlando-area divorce case involving a medical sales professional and a stay-at-home mom was an example of an action where alleged falsehoods played a role.

One of the most heavily litigated issues in the case was the amount of the husband’s income. The wife, in seeking to establish the husband’s income, presented evidence related to five physician clients. The husband, however, countered that two of those doctors were not his clients. Regarding one of those two doctors, Dr. G., the husband stated that he never did any business with that physician, never tried to do any business with Dr. G. and, as a result, never received any income from Dr. G.

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If you have a court order that obligates you to pay a reasonable amount of alimony to your ex-spouse and you’re capable of paying it, then the best thing you can do is… pay it. Of course, life isn’t always that simple, especially in this time of coronavirus-fueled economic instability, which is affecting more and more ex-spouses who are under court orders to pay alimony. If your court-ordered amount is more than you can pay or is otherwise unreasonable, then you should reach out as soon as possible to an experienced South Florida family law attorney so that your attorney can begin working on getting your alimony obligation modified.

Simply allowing yourself to fall behind on alimony is almost never the right answer, and can come with some serious consequences. However, even if you have made the mistake of racking up an alimony arrearage, failure to pay does not mean that you are without any rights. You are still entitled to certain legal protections and there are still certain processes and procedures the court must go through before administering certain penalties.

As an example, we can look at a recent alimony case from Broward County. That husband owed alimony to his ex-wife in excess of $600,000, and the wife filed a motion to find the husband in contempt.

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While marital settlement agreements (MSAs) are unique in some ways, they are also a lot like any other contract in many ways. As you progress toward a final agreement, there are several checkboxes that must be checked. Does the agreement include everything you must have? Does the agreement contain none of the terms that you consider a “deal-breaker?” If yes, then you have the framework of a potentially workable agreement. Doing this, though, means taking ultimate care because, whatever happens later, you’ll still be bound by the terms of the MSA you signed. To make sure the MSA you’re signing is an MSA that is truly fair, get the legal representation you need from the right South Florida divorce attorney.

As an illustration of what we mean, there’s the recent case of M.J. and B.J. from the Tampa Bay area. The couple divorced after 26 years of marriage. Generally, in cases decided by a judge, a marriage of 26 years qualifies as a “long-term” marriage and the spouse who receives alimony is entitled to receive permanent alimony.

This husband avoided that outcome by working out an MSA with his wife that included an alimony provision. The agreement said that the husband would pay the wife, who was 54 years old at the time of the MSA’s signing, durational alimony of $4,500 per month for eight years. The agreement also stated that the duration of the alimony could not be changed later through a modification action. The contract said nothing about the wife getting a job during those eight years.

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Family law is full of various rules, but few of them are completely black-and-white. The law recognizes that each family in a family law case is unique, and a just outcome should reflect that. That’s why having a skilled South Florida family law attorney is so important. Your experienced attorney will have that knowledge of all of family law’s nuances and gray areas that non-lawyers don’t, and know how to use them to your best advantage.

Very recently, this blog covered the issue of alimony and its relationship to the length of the marriage. That time, the wife was seeking permanent alimony after having been married for less than 13 years, or a marriage of “moderate duration.” (Florida law says marriages of seven years or less are “short term,” marriages lasting more than seven years but less than 17 years are “moderate” in duration and marriages of 17 years or more are “long term.”)

In law, including alimony law, there are “presumptions.” These are default positions that will be the final outcomes in most cases, but not in all of them. You can overcome a presumption if you have enough of the right evidence to do what’s called “rebut” the presumption.

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When you go through the divorce process and your spouse seeks alimony, you have several challenges. One of those is to avoid outcomes where your ex gets more alimony than they should, or gets it for a longer duration than Florida law says is appropriate. To help in making sure that your outcome is a fair one, get skilled legal representation from an experienced South Florida alimony attorney.

When it comes to the duration of alimony, the law has some pretty clear limitations on awarding permanent periodic alimony, which was on display in the case of B.P. and his wife, S.P. The couple married in 2003, separated in early 2014 and the husband filed for divorce in 2016. At trial, the judge concluded that the marriage was of moderate duration and that the wife was entitled to $6,912 per month in permanent periodic alimony, as that amount and duration was necessary “to maintain the standard of living to which” the wife was accustomed.

The husband successfully appealed the alimony ruling. As both the trial court and appeals court noted, B.P. and S.P.’s marriage was a “moderate-term” one under Florida law. (Florida law has created three different levels of marital duration that judges use in making alimony decisions. Those groupings are: “short-term,” which is seven years or less, “moderate-term,” which is more than seven years but less than 17 years, and “long-term,” which is 17 years or more. That duration period is measured as the period from the date of the marriage until the date of an approved filing for divorce.)

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many ways, including financially. Some may be struggling to keep their homes, while others may be struggling to feed their families. Some of those who have been thrown into dire financial straits here in Florida are people who have alimony obligations. If that’s you, the worst thing you can do is sit idly by and do nothing as you fall behind on your alimony. Instead, take action right away to get in touch with an experienced South Florida family law attorney and begin taking the actions that the law lets you take.

Even as Florida has re-opened most of its businesses, problems remain. Late last month, the government once again shuttered all bars, according to a NBC Miami report. You can imagine then, if you’re the proprietor of a popular bar in Fort Lauderdale Beach (from which you derive most of your income) and you’re also a divorced spouse who owes a monthly alimony payment, the re-closure of all bars in the Sunshine State is a source of major stress for you.

The law does still give you options, though. To get your alimony payments lowered, you will have to clear several legal hurdles. The first thing you absolutely must do is prove that you have a change of circumstances. Furthermore, that change has to be both (1) substantial and (2) something that could not have been anticipated when alimony was litigated (or set via a mutual agreement.) In other words, if you’re 63 years old when you sign your alimony agreement, you may not be able to turn around at age 65 and get a downward modification of alimony based on your retirement (and the reduction in income it created.)

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