What Is The Limit Of An Alimony Award In Florida?
The purpose of alimony is to help one ex-spouse maintain their prior standard of living. Alimony is therefore not awarded in every divorce case. It is only considered appropriate when there is a substantial financial disparity between the parties. Alimony helps to “level the playing field,” especially when one spouse has not worked for some time and does not have the same earning potential as the other spouse.
Appeals Court: No “Exceptional Circumstances” Justify Ordering Husband to Pay More Than Half of His Net Income to Wife
At the same time, alimony generally cannot be used to impose an unfair financial burden on the spouse who is required to pay. Florida law expressly provides that any award of alimony “may not leave the payor with significantly less net income than the net income of the recipient unless there are written findings of exceptional circumstances.”
A recent decision from the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals, Rabadan v. Rabadan, provides a useful illustration of how this law works in practice. In this case, a wife sought alimony from her husband. Both parties present expert testimony from forensic accountants who specifically looked at the finances of a family business run by the husband.
Not surprisingly, both experts reached different conclusions regarding the proper valuation of the business and therefore the husband’s net income for alimony purposes. The trial judge accepted the figure proposed by the wife’s expert, which established the husband’s net income at $15,260 per month. The judge then awarded the wife $8,000 per month in “base” alimony. Additionally, the court ordered the husband to pay the wife’s health and dental expenses, and take out a life insurance policy to guarantee his alimony obligation in the event of his unexpected death.
On appeal, the Fourth District said the base alimony award violated Florida law, as it left the husband with less net income than the wife. After all, she would receive more than half of his monthly net income, plus he had the additional burden of paying for her insurance. More to the point, the trial judge failed to make any “written findings of exceptional circumstances” that would justify such an award, as required by law.
The only justification the trial court offered was that the wife required assistance from her adult children and therefore needed sufficient alimony to provide a “residence large enough” for one of her children to continue living with her. The Fourth District said that was not a proper reason. Unless an adult child is an incapacitated dependent or still enrolled in high school thru the age of 19, a parent cannot be obligated to provide any financial support for that child. The appellate court therefore held the husband was entitled to a re-calculation of his alimony award, consistent with Florida law.
Speak with a Florida Divorce Attorney Today
Alimony is often one of the most contentious issues in a divorce case. An experienced Tampa divorce lawyer can provide you with skilled guidance and representation on this and many other subjects. Contact the Faulkner Law Group, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.