A North Florida trial court’s decision to award an ex-wife only enough alimony to cover her insurance expenses was recently thrown out by the 1st District Court of Appeal as not proper under the requirements of the Florida Statutes. In this wife’s case, failing to award enough alimony to cover her shelter and medications required reversal. The ruling reminds those involved in divorce matters that the law demands consideration of all of the recipient’s necessities as established during the couple’s marriage, and it also serves a clear warning of the potential risks of proceeding without legal counsel.
The couple, J.R. (husband) and T.R. (wife) from Clay County, recently divorced after a long-term marriage. The husband had an income of more than $78,000 per year. The wife, who did not have a high-school degree, had an annual income of less than $16,500. When the trial court came to address the issue of alimony, the judge concluded that the wife’s needs consisted only of her insurance, including both auto and health. The cost for these expenses was $600 per month, so the trial court awarded the wife $600 monthly in permanent alimony.
The wife appealed and won. The appeals court seemed to imply that part of what hampered the wife’s case at the trial court level was her decision to proceed without a lawyer. The wife’s presentation to the trial court was, in the words of the appeals court, “inartful and disjointed.” In spite of that, she did bring forward enough evidence to establish that she was entitled to more alimony than just an amount that would cover her insurance expenses. She testified that she had credit card bills that ran to between $400 and $500 per month, since she had been using credit cards to pay for her living expenses. Additionally, the alimony award clearly made no provision for covering expenses for housing, as well as the necessary prescription medications about which she also had testified at the hearing.
Based on these deficiencies, the alimony award did not comply with the law. Florida Statutes Section 61.08 requires courts to consider the paying spouse’s ability to pay as well as the recipient spouse’s needs “as they were established during the marriage.” The wife unmistakably had a need for support in excess of $600 per month. Additionally, the evidence at the hearing made it clear that the husband had an ability to pay more of the wife’s needs than just $600 per month.
The appeals court noted that the wife, as part of the couple’s equitable distribution, was awarded half of the husband’s retirement account, which meant that the wife received $222,000. That did not affect the calculation of the correct amount of alimony, however. The appeals court agreed with the wife’s argument that an alimony award that is so low that it requires the recipient spouse “to deplete her capital assets in order to maintain her standard of living as it was during the marriage” is impermissibly low.
Regardless of whether you’re a potential payor or recipient, going it alone without a lawyer can be a very expensive proposition when it comes to alimony. The South Florida alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are well-versed in this area of the law and well-prepared to help you present your case to the courts. Contact our diligent attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Wife’s Alimony Shielded from Florida Attorney’s Lien if Needed for ‘Daily Sustenance’, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 28, 2015
Alimony Award Equalized Incomes, Stymied Florida Wife’s Claim for Attorneys’ Fees, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 6, 2015