There are almost as many family law situations as there are families, it seems sometimes. Fortunately, lawmakers have taken efforts to address many situations, including some relatively unique ones. You may not be aware, but in Florida, there is a statute that covers what happens if you (or your children) are not receiving the support you should — and you want to get that financial support – but you do not want to pursue a divorce right away. You can seek alimony “unconnected with” divorce. Taking this step does not mean the court will enter an order of divorce; this tool is designed to allow judges to institute court-ordered support without ending the marriage. Also, be aware that you can choose, if you want, to seek court-ordered support “unconnected with dissolution” now and, if the marriage breaks down later, still seek a divorce at that later date.
This tool allows you to obtain the support you need without having to pursue divorce when the marriage isn’t necessarily irretrievably broken. What this should signify to you is that there’s probably more tools in a knowledgeable South Florida family law attorney’s “tool belt” than you might have imagined, so be sure your situation has the wise legal counsel your family deserves.
Let’s look at this legal concept using a recent case. R.L. and P.L. were a married couple. The husband had executed a “power of attorney” document, which is a type of estate planning document in which you can name another person to act as your agent to carry out certain legal, financial and/or medical decision-making tasks (that you list in the document.)
Eventually, the husband’s mental functioning began to deteriorate. The wife filed a motion in court asking the judge to award alimony to her. She was not seeking a divorce but was pursuing court-ordered “alimony unconnected with dissolution.” The Florida statute that governs this option says that, if one spouse has the ability to contribute support but is failing to do so, then the other spouse may go to court and get an order forcing the spouse to provide that support, so that is what this wife did.
R.L. and P.L.’s situation presented one potential wrinkle. In many cases, the spouse seeking support may have proof that the other spouse is intentionally not providing support. However, you may wonder… what if the failure to contribute was not exactly malicious? In P.L. and R.L.’s case, the husband was potentially mentally incapacitated. Can you still get that much-needed court order of alimony unconnected with divorce?
The appeals court stated in P.L. and R.L.’s case that the answer was, “Potentially yes.” In cases where the spouse who is potentially incapacitated has signed a power of attorney document, and the document gives the agent the authority to pay obligations like alimony, then the incapacity is not a “showstopper.” Instead, the court-ordered alimony unconnected with divorce simply triggers the agent, acting on behalf of the husband, to pay the support to the wife from the husband’s assets.
Almost everyone has unique things about their family, and so most people who require family law-related legal services probably have unique aspects of their need, too. That’s one reason among many why it pays to have a legal team that has the necessary knowledge and experience. The diligent and hardworking South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have been providing our clients with useful advice and thoughtful solutions for a wide array of family law issues confronting our clients. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.