Wife’s Self-Imposed Unemployment Factors into Alimony Calculation

A recent 4th District Court of Appeal ruling highlighted the complicated issues involved in calculating alimony in a case where the wife, who was previously a successful professional, retired early and did not intend to return to work after the divorce. The appeals court rejected a trial court ruling imputing no income to the wife, determining that, because the wife was qualified for certain jobs and that her continued unemployment was her own choice, the lower court should have imputed some income to the wife in determining the amount of alimony the wife should receive.

When this Florida coupleĀ married, he was an attorney for a utility company and she ran a public relations and marketing firm. The husband’s employer laid him off in 2000, but provided him with such a generous severance package that both he and his wife decided to retire early. The husband told the wife that, as a result of the severance payment, neither of them would ever have to work again. After a year of retirement, though, the husband started a consulting business from which he earned a sizable income. The wife remained retired.

When the couple divorced after 17 years of marriage, one of the central items in dispute was alimony and the wife’s earning capacity. An expert witness testified that, with a few short classes in computer software and social media, the wife could obtain a job making $40,000-$50,000 per year. The trial court, though, decided the wife was not qualified for most of the jobs identified by the expert witness, imputed no income to her, and ordered the husband to pay her $11,648 per month in permanent periodic alimony. The court also did not require the wife to return to work.

The husband’s appeal claimed that the wife was employable and that the evidence of the case ran contrary to the trial court’s conclusion that jobs were not reasonably available to the wife. The wife, on the other hand, contended that the husband had not proved that she was employable.

The appeals court reversed the trial court’s ruling, determining that several aspects of its reasoning were flawed. The appeals court explained that, in order to impute income to a former spouse, the other spouse need not prove than an employer would actually hire that spouse. In thisĀ case, the wife admitted that she was unemployed and that she had no intention of looking for a job. The expert provided competent evidence that the wife was qualified for certain jobs. That meant that the wife’s unemployment was self-imposed, and the trial court should have imputed income to her.

When divorces involve two highly successful professionals, the calculation of alimony can often involve large sums of money and make a profound impact upon the post-divorce lives of both former spouses. In order to protect your assets, you should retain capable Florida counsel to ensure that your former spouse receives only the amount of alimony the law actually prescribes. For answers to your alimony questions, consult the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A.. Our attorneys can help you defend the things that you’ve spend a lifetime working for.

Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Appeals Court Reverses Lower Court’s Refusal to Award Wife Permanent Alimony, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 26, 2014
Alimony Reform Supporters Use Documentary Film to Bolster Their Case, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Feb. 5, 2014