In many divorce actions, one spouse will ask the court to award permanent alimony after the divorce is final. The courts must weigh numerous factors in determining whether an alimony award is appropriate, including whether the party from whom spousal support is requested has the ability to pay. Merely because the court finds that a party does not have the means to pay alimony does not necessarily meant that spousal support should not be granted, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida ruling. If you or your spouse intend to seek alimony via a divorce petition, it is in your best interest to meet with a Florida divorce attorney to discuss your rights.
Factual and Procedural History of the Case
Allegedly, the husband and the wife married in 1996, and in 2018, the wife filed a petition for dissolution in which she sought permanent alimony for a long-term marriage as defined by Florida law. She also sought bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony and asked the court to require the husband to obtain a life insurance policy naming her as the beneficiary. The court issued a final dissolution of marriage, denying the wife’s requests with regards to alimony and life insurance.
It is reported that in doing so, the court determined that the wife had monthly expenses of approximately $2,800.00 while the husband had monthly expenses of approximately $6,900.00. The court also noted that there appeared to be a discrepancy between the wife’s financial affidavits and her bank accounts but stated that her bank accounts indicated a need for alimony. The court ultimately found that the husband lacked the ability to pay alimony, and therefore, declined to determine whether the wife had a need for such support. The wife appealed.
Factors Weighed in Evaluating an Alimony Request
The appellate court agreed with the wife and reversed the trial court ruling. Under Florida law, in all dissolution matters, the courts must set forth findings of fact pertaining to the factors listed under the Florida Statutes that support a denial or award of alimony. As such, in the subject case, the trial court was required to make a specific factual determination regarding whether the wife demonstrated an actual need for maintenance or alimony.
The appellate court noted that the trial court was required to make such a finding regardless of whether it determined the husband possessed the ability to pay alimony, and irrespective of whether it ultimately granted or denied the wife’s alimony request. The appellate court further explained that when a spouse is entitled to alimony but the other spouse lacks the ability to pay, a trial court should award permanent periodic alimony in a nominal sum. Based on the foregoing, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling
Speak to an Experienced Florida Attorney
Spouses often have disparate incomes, and if they divorce, the lesser earning spouse may be entitled to support. If you have questions about your rights with regard to alimony, it is smart to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The experienced Florida lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. take pride in fighting to protect our clients’ interests in actions for spousal support, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach us via our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to schedule a meeting.