Florida Court’s Failure to Explain How It Chose Dollar Amounts Leads Appeals Court to Throw Out Divorce Order

A lot of divorce cases have multiple distinct but related components. Even if a couple has no minor children in the home, there may be numerous elements to a divorce case, including the distribution of assets and debts, as well as alimony. When a trial court issues an order in your divorce, the law requires the judge to make certain factual findings as part of the ruling. In one case from North Florida, the lack of some required findings led the First District Court of Appeal to grant a husband’s appeal and send the case back to the trial court.

The marriage in this case was a long-term one. J.K. (husband) and D.K. (wife) were married for 26 years when they divorced. By the time their marriage ended, the couple had a credit card with a $20,000 balance on it, and the wife had an income that was significantly larger than the husband’s income. The couple reached an agreement on the distribution of their assets and debts, but the court still had to make a ruling on the husband’s alimony request.

The judge took evidence on the alimony issue, found the husband to be voluntarily underemployed, and decided that he was entitled to $500 per month in alimony, which was only one-third of what the husband had sought. The couple’s agreement stated that the husband would be solely responsible for the $20,000 credit card debt. In order to make certain that the husband paid his debts as agreed in the couple’s consent order, the judge ordered him to take out a $100,000 life insurance policy and name the wife as the beneficiary.

The husband appealed. The appeals court threw out the alimony award because the trial court did not make the correct factual findings to support the judgment that was entered. Before issuing an award of alimony, the law requires a trial court to make determinations about the recipient’s need and the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Other factors that permissibly can alter an award include a recipient’s voluntary underemployment or unemployment.

The court in this case never explained exactly how it decided that the husband only needed $500 per month (or, alternatively, that the wife only had an ability to pay $500 per month). While the trial court expressly concluded that the husband was voluntarily underemployed, the judge did not impute any additional income to him or explain exactly how his underemployment lessened his need for alimony. Without these findings, the appeals court was forced to send the issue back to the trial court again.

The life insurance policy requirement suffered from a similar problem. The law allows courts to require the purchase of life insurance to secure certain obligations, but the size of the policy must be related to the debt being secured. Here, the trial court offered no explanation as to why the husband had to buy $100,000 in life insurance to secure a $20,000 credit card debt.

When you are going through a divorce proceeding, there is a wide array of factual and legal issues to consider. The diligent South Florida alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have extensive experience helping clients address their needs and put forward the best possible case. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Imputing Income to Your Ex-Spouse in Your Florida Alimony Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 10, 2016

Wife Must Share Responsibility for Husband’s Eve-of-Divorce $13K Credit Card Tab, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, March 5, 2014