Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court’s order to reduce a former wife’s alimony award and deny her attorney’s fees based upon her financial support of a man who resides with her. In this case, the Circuit Court for Monroe County granted the man’s petition to reduce his alimony payments to his former wife after the court determined that she had entered into a “supportive relationship” with another man as defined by Florida Statute Section 61.14(1)(b). The statute allows for a court to decrease or eliminate an alimony award where a former spouse resides with someone who provides them with some level of support. Despite that the couple were married for more than 25 years and the lower court found that the wife received no financial support from her cohabitant, the lower court reduced her alimony award from a monthly payment of $4,200 to $3,500.
First, the Third District analyzed the statute at issue in the case. The court stated that although the statute failed to define a “supportive relationship,” it listed 11 factors to be considered by a court when determining whether such a relationship exists. According to the appellate court, nine of those factors are economic in nature. The court also found that the Florida Legislature clearly chose to focus on the economic impact of cohabitation rather than the act of residing with a new partner when it established Section 61.14(1)(b).
Next, the Third District looked to the holding of Florida’s First District Court of Appeal in Overton v. Overton. There, the appellate court found the type of relationship described in the statute “takes the financial place of a marriage and necessarily decreases the need of the obligee.” Additionally, the Third District looked to the Fourth District’s holding in Linstroth v. Dorgan which stated a “supportive relationship” as contemplated in the statute is “a relationship that provides the economic support equivalent to a marriage.”
According to the Third District, the question at issue in the case was whether a “supportive relationship” could exist when a court also determined an alimony recipient did not receive financial support from the individual with whom she was residing. The appellate court said although the wife was providing financial support to her cohabitant, her relationship did not qualify as supportive under the statute because her economic needs were not reduced by her living arrangement. Finally, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal held that a supportive relationship could not exist where no financial support was received by an alimony recipient. The Third District reversed the lower court’s order to reduce the wife’s monthly alimony award and reversed the lower court’s denial of her reasonable attorney’s fees.
In the State of Florida, a court may award alimony where there is a need on the part of the alimony recipient and an ability to pay on the part of the alimony payor. A needs assessment is normally performed to examine the distribution of marital assets as well as the former couple’s standard of living prior to the end of their marriage. Although many factors are examined when making an award of spousal support, a Florida court generally will not award alimony if the potential recipient has the ability to maintain the same standard of living after all assets are distributed.
If you need assistance with a family law matter, contact Attorney Sandy T. Fox today. Mr. Fox is available to advise you on a host of family law issues including alimony, divorce, name changes, child custody, child support, and child visitation. To speak with a diligent family law attorney today, please do not hesitate to call the Law Office of Sandy T. Fox toll free at (800) 596-0579 or contact us through our website.
More Blog Posts:
A Florida Divorce Often Impacts Your Career, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, September 28, 2012
Insurance Policies Are Too Often Overlooked During a Florida Divorce, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, September 20, 2012
Murphy v. Murphy, No. 3D11-1604, (Fla. 3d DCA October 3, 2012).