Can A Judge Order Me To Buy Life Insurance To Secure My Alimony Obligations?
Florida has complex rules governing the award of alimony in divorce cases. Alimony is not designed to punish a spouse for misconduct. Rather, it is supposed to ensure the receiving spouse has sufficient income to maintain their lifestyle and not become destitute following a divorce.
To further these objectives, a judge may in certain cases require the spouse responsible for paying alimony also purchase a life insurance policy. This policy names the receiving spouse as the beneficiary. This way, if the paying spouse dies unexpectedly before their alimony obligation ends, the receiving spouse is not left financially high-and-dry.
Florida Appeals Court: Life Insurance Should Not Be Used to “Overcompensate” Former Spouse
Again, it is critical to emphasize that none of this should be looked at as a punishment. A judge should only require the purchase of a life insurance policy when there is a demonstrated need to protect the alimony recipient. The court must therefore make specific factual findings supported by the evidence in a given divorce case. And when the facts do justify a life insurance mandate, the payer should not be required to buy more coverage than is necessary to secure their alimony obligation.
A recent decision from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals, Ritacco v. Ritacco, provides a case in point. In this case, a husband and wife divorced after 22 years of marriage. The wife stayed at home to raise the couple’s children. As part of the final divorce judgment, the court awarded the ex-wife permanent alimony. The judge further directed the ex-husband to purchase a life insurance policy to secure his alimony obligation.
The court justified the life insurance requirement on several grounds. First, the ex-husband continues to work as a police officer, which is by its very nature a “dangerous field.” Second, based on the ex-husband’s income he could afford the premiums on a life insurance policy. Finally, without any security, the ex-wife would become destitute if the ex-husband died suddenly and unexpectedly.
On appeal, the Fourth District did not disturb any of the judge’s findings with respect to the justification for the life insurance policy. But it nevertheless reversed the trial court on this issue. The Fourth District explained that under the terms of the divorce, the ex-wife will receive 50 percent of the ex-husband’s police pension. But if the ex-husband were to die, then the ex-wife would receive the entire pension. This would exceed the total award of permanent alimony. Put another way, since the pension already provides financial security for the ex-wife, the life insurance policy would “overcompensate” her.
Speak with a Florida Family Law Attorney Today
If you need legal advice in connection with alimony or any related issue, an experienced Tampa divorce lawyer can help. Contact the Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation with a member of our family law team.