When you think about alimony, you probably think about a court order that obliges one ex-spouse to pay the other ex-spouse a sum of money every month for a certain period of time (or permanently). The law also, however, allows the courts to hand out lump-sum awards of alimony. As with other alimony awards, the law has specific rules regarding when that type of alimony is appropriate. In one recent Second District Court of Appeal case, a lump-sum alimony award was overturned because the trial judge didn’t make the findings necessary to show that the award complied with the law.
R.G. and M.G. were a couple who married in Sweden in 2006, but, five years later, the marriage was at an end. The husband, R.G., filed for divorce in Sweden, and the wife, M.G., filed in Manatee County just a few months later. The wife asked the trial court to award her permanent periodic alimony. The wife also asked to receive 100% of the couple’s marital home, either as a form of lump-sum alimony or as a part of the couple’s equitable distribution.
The trial court rejected the wife’s request for permanent periodic alimony. Had she and the husband been in a long-term (17+ years) marriage, the law would have created a presumption that she was entitled to permanent alimony. In this case, though, the couple’s five-year marriage qualified only as a short-term marriage, and no such presumption existed. In alimony cases, the law requires the judge to look at the requesting spouse’s need and the paying spouse’s ability to pay. In this case, the judge concluded that the wife, who made only about $1,200 per month, had a need for alimony. However, the husband, who made only around $1,100 per month, did not have the ability to pay alimony, so no alimony payments were awarded.
The court did, however, give the wife the home as lump-sum alimony. The court concluded that the wife had, during the marriage, made uncompensated contributions to the husband’s business and that these contributions warranted the wife receiving some compensation. The court also expressed concern that, if the wife was not awarded the house, she would be homeless.
The husband appealed, and he won. Under Florida law, courts are generally allowed to award lump-sum alimony either as a type of spousal support or as part of an equitable distribution. The law, however, does require trial courts to indicate which of these two bases was the rationale for the award of lump-sum alimony. The problem in this case was that the trial judge didn’t state whether the award of the house was spousal support or an equitable distribution. When a judge fails to make this type of finding, the lump-sum award must be reversed.
Even if the court had made that finding, the husband’s appeal would have succeeded anyway. The law creates a presumption that a couple should receive a 50-50 split in the equitable distribution of their marital assets. There is a series of 10 factors that the courts must consider before awarding an unequal equitable distribution. There are similar requirements regarding alimony. In this case, the trial court did not make findings related to the law’s 10 factors for either an unequal distribution or alimony. Unlike the court ruling on permanent alimony, the judge’s decision to award lump-sum alimony contained no analysis of the husband’s ability to pay this lump-sum alimony.
Whether you are seeking or opposing alimony, and whether your case involves alimony payments or lump-sum alimony, you need experienced and determined counsel working for you. The South Florida alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have handled many alimony cases over the years and have what it takes to pursue the result you need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More blog posts:
Florida Court’s Failure to Explain How It Chose Dollar Amounts Leads Appeals Court to Throw Out Divorce Order, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2016
Florida Appeals Court Reverses Alimony Award for Failing to Provide for Wife’s Needs, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Jan. 27, 2016