What Is (Or Is Not) a Supportive Relationship When it Comes to Calculating Alimony in Florida

holding-handsThe issue of alimony can be a difficult and contentious one in some divorces. That can be especially true if the former spouse who is now seeking an alimony award is already living with someone new. In spite of all the emotional difficulty that such issues and relationships can create, it is important to understand that not all relationships will impact the calculation of alimony. Whether you are seeking alimony or opposing payment of alimony, make sure you have an experienced Florida family law attorney on your side.

This type of complex set of relationship dynamics was in play in a recent case from Osceola County. The husband and wife were married for 20 years before the couple separated. During the marriage, the wife typically earned less than $15,000 per year working customer service jobs on nights and weekends, so that she could be at home with the couple’s children. The wife had a college degree and a teaching certification, but that certification was no longer valid. She suffered from many medical maladies, including hearing loss, permanent arthritis and several herniated discs in her back. The husband, on the other hand, made in excess of $70,000 per year as the regional branch manager of a library.

After separating, the wife moved into a home that she shared with her boyfriend. That fact factored into the outcome of the wife’s alimony request. The trial court determined that the wife had a need for alimony and the husband had an ability to pay alimony, but the court still awarded no alimony. The reason? The “wife has changed the nature of the request for
alimony by entering into a ‘supportive relationship’ since separation,” according to the trial judge.

The wife appealed and she won. Florida law says that a 20-year marriage like this wife’s qualifies as a “long-term” marriage. The existence of a long-term marriage creates a legal presumption that the spouse seeking alimony is entitled to permanent alimony.

When it comes to deciding whether or not a requesting spouse is entitled to receive alimony, Florida law allows a judge to consider any “other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.” That can include things like the requesting spouse’s decision to enter into a supportive relationship with a new partner. Florida law says that, in order to be a “supportive relationship,” a relationship must be one “that ‘takes the financial place of a marriage and necessarily decreases the need of” the spouse requesting alimony. In other words, the relationship must be the functional equivalent of a remarriage.

There are several areas that factor into establishing that an ex-spouse is in a supportive relationship. The fact that your ex receives financial support from his/her partner is not, by itself, enough to demonstrate that the relationship qualifies under Florida law. The “length and nature of the live-in relationship are also significant factors for the trial court to consider,” according to the courts. To show that the relationship meets the law’s standards, you may need a variety of forms of proof, ranging from financial information to witness testimony to things like social media posts.

In this couple’s case, the trial judge did not make the required findings about the wife’s new relationship and its impact on her need for alimony, so the lower court ruling had to be overturned and the case sent back.

Whether it is alimony, equitable distribution other divorce-related issues, rely upon the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. Our attorneys have been providing clients with the advice and representation they need for many years. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation

More blog posts:

Modification of Alimony and Retroactive Application in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 16, 2017

Your Ex-Spouse’s New Partner and Your Florida Alimony Obligation, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 3, 2016

Photo Credit: Free-Photos, [CC0 License], via Pixabay

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