Adventures in Alimony: Tales from Florida Case Law
In the old days, alimony was a popular subject for aspiring stand-up comedians at local comedy clubs. More recently, it has become a topic for vitriolic blog posts in the less benign corners of the Internet. Then and now, alimony remains misunderstood. What really happens in the courtroom where a judge decides that you have to make monthly payments to your former spouse for a fixed period of time, or even indefinitely? Consider the following Florida alimony cases discussed below, and, if you are going through a divorce in Florida and are worried about how much spousal support you will be required to pay or how much you are entitled to receive, your first step should be to consult an Orlando spousal support attorney.
Why Do Courts Award Alimony?
Divorce courts regard marriage as a financial partnership. They assume that each spouse contributed to the survival of the family, regardless of how much or how little money he or she earned during the marriage. They also take into account whether the spouse is able to work. Therefore, a person in his or her 30s who was only married for five years is unlikely to be awarded spousal support, despite not working during the marriage. If this spouse receives any alimony, it will only be for a short period of time. Meanwhile, a 65-year-old who was married for 35 years and did not work but stayed home to raise the couple’s children is more likely to be awarded permanent alimony.
Famous Alimony Cases in Florida
The following cases in Florida illustrate how Florida courts arrive at the decision to award spousal support and which type to award.
- Hua v. Tsung – The couple was married for 17 years and each party was in their 40s when they filed for divorce. The wife requested permanent alimony on the grounds that she had stayed home to raise the couple’s two children and had not earned an income during the marriage. The court determined that she would still be able to work for at least 20 years before reaching retirement age; therefore, it refused her request for permanent alimony. Instead, it ordered the husband to pay rehabilitative alimony, the amount of which was determined on the basis that it would be enough to enable the wife to become certified as a nurse.
- Koscher v. Koscher – The couple was married for 30 years, and the wife did not work because of a chronic illness. Both spouses agreed that the wife should receive permanent alimony; the only disagreement was over the amount. For most of the marriage, the husband earned a salary that was sufficient for him to support the family, but when his job laid him off, he spent the next four years trying to start a business. During those four years, he earned little to no income. The judge determined that he was voluntarily unemployed during that time and that he could have found another salaried position. Therefore, the judge based the amount of alimony on the husband’s imputed income, in other words, what he would have earned if he had continued working in the same industry.
- Dickson v. Dickson – The couple was married for 19 years and had three children, all of whom had special needs. At the time of the divorce, the wife was studying to be licensed as a surgical technician, and she had taken out student loans for that purpose. The court originally awarded bridge-the-gap alimony, but the wife appealed, saying that it would not be enough, given her student loans and the fact that her childcare responsibilities limited the number of hours she could work. The appeals court ruled to award the wife permanent alimony.
- Gotro v. Gotro – The couple was married 39 years. The court awarded permanent alimony because of the length of the marriage, but the amount was less than what the wife originally requested. The wife alleged misconduct, citing the husband’s irresponsible spending. The court determined that the husband’s financial habits did not fit the definition of misconduct.
The above cases show that Florida courts sometimes award permanent alimony, but it is rare for someone who is younger than 50 or who was married for fewer than 20 years to receive it. They also show that the length of the marriage is not the only factor that determines the amount of alimony.
Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. About Your Alimony Case
If you are in the midst of a dispute with your former spouse about spousal support, lies and ultimatums are not the solution. Instead, you should contact an Orlando family law attorney. Contact Sean Smallwood, P.A. in Orlando, Florida for a consultation.