Generally, Florida courts have the discretion to award alimony and to determine what amount of support is appropriate. The courts must adhere to certain guidelines, however, and if they grant alimony awards that fall outside of the established parameters without just cause, their rulings may be overturned. Recently, a Florida court discussed grounds for reversing a trial court’s ruling with regards to an alimony award in a divorce case in which the support obligation left the payor with far less income than the payee. If you wish to end your marriage or were served with divorce papers, it is smart to speak to a trusted Florida divorce lawyer as soon as possible to evaluate your options.
The Trial Court Ruling
It is reported that the parties filed a petition for marital dissolution. During the trial of the matter, the parties each presented forensic accountants who testified regarding the husband’s ability to pay alimony. The experts’ opinions were based on the value of the husband’s business, changes in industry standards that affected his business, the costs of operating the business, and the line of credit he was required to preserve for its operation.
Allegedly, the wife’s expert testified that she needed in excess of $9,000 per month and that the husband earned over $15,000 a month. In contrast, the husband’s expert testified the wife needed approximately $7,800 a month, and the husband had a net negative income of around $2,000 per month. The trial court ruled the husband could pay $8,000 per month and ordered the husband to provide dental and health insurance for the wife and to obtain a life insurance policy to secure the alimony. The husband appealed.
Alimony Awards in Florida
Alimony awards are reviewed for abuse of discretion. The court explained that, under Florida law, an alimony award might not leave the payor with substantially less income than the net income of the recipient unless the court sets forth written findings of exceptional circumstances. In other words, if an alimony award, when combined with other awards like health insurance, renders the paying spouse without the means to support himself or herself, no reasonable person could disagree as to the impropriety of the award.
While the courts may order a party to pay a reasonable amount for health or dental insurance as part of alimony, there must be a limitation on the maximum cost of the insurance. Similarly, a court may require a party to secure alimony with life insurance, but only if it makes specific findings regarding the cost and availability of such insurance. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the trial court failed to provide any written support for its ruling, which left the husband with significantly less income than the wife, as required under the law. Thus, it reversed the trial court ruling.
Meet with a Capable Florida Divorce Attorney
In some divorce matters, the courts will award alimony, but support awards typically cannot financially harm the higher-earning spouse for the benefit of the disadvantaged spouse. If you or your spouse are contemplating ending your marriage, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. The capable Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A., can advise if you or your spouse may be owed spousal support and help you to pursue a favorable outcome. You can reach us through our form online or at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.