Articles Posted in Alimony

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1228830_wooden_box.jpgAlimony is a common issue in many Florida divorces. The award of alimony in Florida is based on a number of factors, including but not limited to: length of the marriage; contribution to the marriage; standard of living created during the marriage; the need for ongoing spousal support; and an ability to pay spousal support. Once alimony is awarded, unless the order states otherwise, it may be modified upon the occurrence of a substantial change of circumstance of one or both parties. For example, if a former spouse inherited a large sum of money, then there may be reason to modify or terminate the alimony.

In a divorce, a future expectation of an inheritance cannot be factored into the award or determination of alimony. The reason is that wills and estate beneficiaries can be changed and the court must rule based on the actual financial situation of the parties at the time the divorce occurs. So, even if the Husband believes his Wife will inherit $1 million upon the death of a relative, the inheritance cannot be factored into the spousal support need unless it has actually been paid to the Wife.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1194017_wooden_building_blocks-1.jpgIn Florida, alimony is based on a number of factors, including length of the marriage, contribution to the marriage, a party’s ability to pay alimony and the other party’s need for support. Over the years, the court has found that if the spouse receiving alimony begins to cohabit with someone, in a supportive relationship, then that could be grounds for modifying alimony. However, what happens if the ex-spouse that receives alimony is living with someone else, but that person is not assisting with the bills, can alimony be reduced because of the actual cohabitation with another?

On or about October, 3, 2012 Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals (DCA)located in the Miami-Dade area, heard a case regarding this topic and issued an opinion on whether simply living with another gives rise to modifying alimony. In Murphy v. Murphy, 3D11-1604 (Fla. 3rd DCA October 3, 2012), the paying party was asking the court to reduce or terminate the alimony obligation because the Former Wife was residing with another man. The court was asked to apply Florida’s Cohabitation Statute as it relates under family law legislation as stated § 61.14(1)(b)(2), Florida Statutes (2012).

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1361061_designing_on_a_tablet.jpgWhen dealing with Florida alimony in divorce cases, often as a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I find it helpful to review cases to prepare not only for trial, but also to prepare my client for what may happen. Understanding the legal changes that occur not only by the Florida legislature, but also by the courts can be helpful to clients because cases actually use real people in real scenarios. So, much like providing examples of what may happen, the courts actually show us what does happen when A and B occur.

Florida alimony is based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, the contribution of each spouse during the marriage, the incomes of the parties, the potential earning capacity of the spouses, educational/work experience, need, ability to pay and much more. Since there are so many factors that the court may look to in its determination of awarding alimony, understanding the law and how it may be applied can be very helpful to both the lawyer and the client.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1031410_cost_of_flying.jpgAs a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I often educate my clients on the fact that alimony in Florida is modifiable given a substantial change in circumstance, unless agreed by the parties as nonmodifiable. Inflation is an involuntary change in the economy and impacts living expenses, including utilities, food prices, etc. As such, inflation may impact the amount of alimony necessary to sustain an individual from day to day. When permanent alimony is awarded, such as in long-term marriages (greater than 16 years of marriage) or in cases where a spouse has a permanent disability and the ex-spouse has an ability to pay alimony, inflation may be grounds for an alimony modification. In Florida, to modify alimony, there must be a substantial change in circumstance. For alimony modifications due to inflation, there are more steps that must be proven.

Inflation has been warranted to create a substantial change in circumstance because it decreases the value of a dollar. So an alimony award in 1990 would not spend the same in 2012 and the courts recognize this issue. However, the courts also recognize that a change in circumstance cannot just be the impact inflation has on the value of a dollar, but on the impact that change has on the individual seeking the modification. Since alimony is designed to provide support for a spouse to have shelter, clothing, food, and other necessities, the receiving party has to show the court how inflation has made it more challenging to fulfill those needs.

Written By: Lenorae Atter, Attorney

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Alimony can be an issue in a Florida divorce and is often base on need and ability to pay. The Florida legislature has made drastic changes to the alimony statute to make it easier for the courts to apply the right type of alimony in a divorce case. Given that there are multiple forms of alimony, the Florida legislators were hoping to narrow the field for length of time that alimony may be awarded. In accordance with Florida Statute 61.08 alimony may be applied by Florida courts to either party and may be awarded in many different forms including the following: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, lump sum, permanent, or an alimony award may be a combination of more than one form (i.e. rehabilitative to pay for schooling and periodic for a certain duration).

Bridge-the-gap alimony is an unmodifiable alimony award that provides a party financial assistance to aid that party in transitioning from being marriage to being single. It is designed to assist the party with any legitimate and identifiable short-term needs. The length of any bridge-the-gap alimony award may be granted in a short-term marriage, generally under 7 years and may terminate upon the death of either party or if the receiving spouse remarries.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1143635_calendar_desk.jpgIn 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.

865417_rejected.jpgIn Florida, a failure to pay child support or alimony can result in the loss or suspension of a professional license. If a party fails to pay the ordered support, then the party in need of said support may file a petition with the court to suspend the license of the responsible party. The Florida Statute regarding such a petition requires that all other recourses be used before filing for the suspension of a license. The statute also gives provisions that must be followed before the petition can actually filed with the court. As a Jacksonville divorce and child support lawyer, I can vouch for the importance of following statutory requirements because of the statutory requirements are not followed, then the court may throw out the action all together.

Before filing a petition for the suspension or denial of a professional license, Florida Statute 61.13015, you must first send notice to the responsible party that she/he has 30 days to pay the delinquent support obligation or enter into an agreement for payments to be made regarding the delinquency. The responsible party is required to reach out the requesting party to establish such payments and to provide proof that such payments have been made.

If there is no response from the first notice, then the requesting party must send a second notice to the obligated party that states the amount owed and that she/he has 30 days to pay the delinquency or to set-up a payment arrangement to pay the amount owed. If an arrangement is made, then it should be reduced to writing and formalized with the signatures of the parties. The party responsible for the support should provide proof that the first payment has been made.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

1169459_money_or_mariage_3.jpgIn Florida, alimony is generally a factor in a divorce where one spouse makes considerably more income than the other. In cases involving alimony, such as things as length of the marriage, contributions to the marriage, marital lifestyle and the like are factors to consider when deciding what type of alimony should be awarded and for how long. However, what are the factors the court looks at later when a modification or change to alimony may be necessary?

In order to modify a prior family law court order, the requesting spouse must file an action with the court and establish, within the document, that there has been a substantial change in circumstance. A substantial change in circumstance can be anything from the receiving spouse won the lottery to the paying ex-spouse being demoted. Whatever the change, it has to be significant to warrant a modification to the prior order and typically, a substantial financial change is a 15% increase or decrease in income.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

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Normally in a Florida divorce, when alimony is awarded is based on the single needs of one spouse and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Generally, Florida alimony is based on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage, marital lifestyle, needs of the requesting spouse and the parties’ historical contributions to the marriage (homemaking, breadwinner, etc.). Also, alimony is normally contingent upon the requesting spouse living alone and there being provisions that allows for alimony to be modified or terminated if the spouse receiving alimony later cohabitates with someone or remarries. However, recent court decisions have made it clear that the provision allowing for modification in those situations does not automatically lead to the termination or reduction in alimony.

In some cases, alimony may be awarded in a Florida divorce even when the requesting spouse resides with someone else. In certain cases, there may not be many financial options for a spouse so his or her financial needs may be based on what his or her expenses are living with a roommate. In that situation, alimony is actually determined and calculated based on the requesting spouse’s actual financial needs for his or her portion of living expenses. For example, if Ann and Ben divorce and Ben cannot afford to rent his own place, then Ben may seek a living situation with a roommate. In that situation, Ben is still responsible for one-half the rent, utilities, cable, etc. Ben’s income may not be enough to cover even the one-half share of his new place and in the divorce he would show this to the judge. If Ben is awarded alimony based on his present needs, then that is alimony granted even though he cohabitates with someone else.

Written by: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law

article_alimony.jpgWhen first meeting with divorce clients in my Jacksonville and Ponte Vedra, Florida offices I often get detailed information. The details that ultimately are important in the first meeting include but are not limited to, the date of marriage; the incomes of the parties; the work history of each spouse during the marriage; and a list of assets and debts, including the marital home, it’s value and monthly mortgage payment. While clients may want to address the reason they are discussing divorce, I try to focus on the things that are related to what can happen if they were to proceed with divorce. I find this tactic helpful in educating clients so that they understand such as things as why she/he will most likely need to pay alimony to the other spouse. That seems to be the most common concern and one that I like to address as soon as possible.

So, why might you be responsible for paying alimony to your spouse? In Florida, alimony is determined based on factors of length of marriage, contribution to the marriage, financial needs, financial ability to pay alimony, and a few other details. In order to provide a clearer picture of the, “why,” I will provide some examples of what a marriage may look like: