Recently, this blog touched upon the issue of a parent receiving child support credit for expenses and what happens when the parent doesn’t actually spend that money. In child support cases, this matters because of those expenses’ impact child support guideline calculations.
In alimony, the problem is similar but somewhat different. In alimony law, the judge is tasked with setting an amount of alimony that properly reflects the recipient spouse’s need and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay. If the recipient spouse is getting credit for an expense that she’s not actually paying for, then the court’s calculation of her need is greater than what her true need really is. When that happens and you are the supporting spouse, then you need a modification of your alimony that lowers your payment. An experienced South Florida family law attorney can help in pursuing that change.
M.H. and A.M.H.’s post-marriage situation was an example of this problem. Reportedly, the couple divorced in 2003 and, at that time, worked out a marital settlement agreement, which included an award of alimony to the wife. Although the husband was in his early 50s at the time, neither that settlement agreement nor the court’s final judgment of divorce were so forward-looking as to address what would happen to the husband’s alimony obligation once he retired from working.
The husband retired from his job as a trucker in January 2017 at the age of 65. The husband went back to court and asked the judge either to reduce his alimony obligation or to terminate it entirely. The court reduced the man’s monthly alimony amount but did not end the obligation.
The husband appealed and he won his appeal. There were two main errors made by the trial court that ultimately led to the husband getting a new hearing on alimony. For one thing, the court had factored into its alimony expenses that the wife wasn’t actually incurring.
In M.H.’s case, his ex-wife was credited for her housing expenses. This is common as housing is an expense almost all people have and is often their largest single expense. The trial judge had imputed an amount of housing expenses to the wife but, in reality, she stayed on a rotating basis with her children from a previous marriage in order to spend time with the grandkids. All of these arrangements were rent-free. By imputing housing expenses to the wife, the judge’s calculation of her need was greater than what her actual need was.
What’s more, as the appeals court reminded readers, a trial judge can only impute an expense to a recipient spouse if there is sufficient evidence of exactly how much that need is. Even if this wife had suddenly been thrust into a situation where she needed to pay her own housing costs, in the absence of adequate proof demonstrating exactly how much the recipient spouse would pay for her rent or mortgage, then the law prohibits an imputation of income. Without that evidence, the imputed income would be based solely on mere speculation, which is not allowed. In M.H. and A.M.H.’s case, the wife had no evidence regarding housing expenses.
Whatever the reason that a miscalculation has occurred, if a miscalculation has taken place that has resulted in your paying more in alimony that you reasonably should, you need to know the proper method for getting that obligation reduced. The South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. are here to help. Our skilled attorneys offer knowledgeable representation in a variety of family law disputes, including alimony and child support. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.