Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
In a Florida divorce involving alimony, there are multiple factors to be considered in determining an award of alimony. Florida statutes provides for alimony under circumstances, including the length of the marriage, needs of the parties, ability to pay alimony, lifestyle during the marriage, contributions to the marriage, etc. So, if you and your spouse make significantly different money, does that automatically entitle you to permanent alimony?
The courts have addressed this issue over the years and have determined that simply showing a difference in income does not mean that a party is entitled to permanent alimony. For example, if a Wife makes $300,000 per year and the Husband makes $500,000 per year, which does not mean the Wife automatically qualifies for permanent alimony. In order to be awarded permanent alimony it has to be shown that not only the length of marriage meets the statutory requirements (e.g. greater than 17 years), but also that the requesting party has an ongoing need for permanent alimony. A need for alimony basically goes to the actual living expenses of the spouse and whether she/he has an ability to pay said expenses. As such, if $300,000 per year is enough to help Wife maintain her expenses, then she does not have an ongoing need for alimony.
However, if Wife showed proof that she had an ailment or medical issue that would prohibit her from working in the future, then she may show a need for permanent alimony. If, in the same example as above, that Wife had medical condition that would require her to stop working and earning $300,000 per year, then she may ask the court to give her alimony for the future. If that is the case, then the court may grant a small portion of alimony so that it can be modified later to increase as her needs increase. In such cases, the courts do try to get creative because preserving alimony with a nominal amount can mean $1 per month or more, depending on the ability to pay alimony.
In return, if the need never arises for the permanent alimony to be modified upward, like if the Wife did not get ill, then the other party may ask for the court to modify the alimony downward or terminate it all together. For example, if the Husband was required to pay some alimony, let’s say $500 per month, and Wife kept her job indefinitely, then Husband may petition the court to terminate the amount of alimony or, in the least, to reduce the alimony payment. These issues can go both ways as both parties are entitled to relief and award based on the facts in the case.
Alimony can be challenging to understand in Florida and you want to make certain that you preserve your rights to any ongoing support you may be entitled to. Therefore, you should speak with an experienced family law/divorce attorney regarding your case so that you can get more information regarding your rights and options.