Written By: Lenorae Atter, Attorney at Law
Alimony in a Florida divorce is defined by statutes for qualification purposes, but defined by judges and case law for purposes of determining the amount of alimony. However, there are questions in Florida divorces regarding men receiving alimony when they have been the homemaker and stay-at-home-dad during the marriage because, unfortunately, judges may still have gender biases. In Jacksonville area divorces, I have not yet seen a judge deny alimony to a man who met the statutory requirements showing a need for alimony; however, that does not mean it does not happen. Biases sadly play into every sector of family law though most of the biases are more subconscious than blatant. Men, however, are entitled under Florida Statutes, to receive the same consideration for alimony as women.
The reason this issue has arisen in 2012 is due to a recent appellate case, Gulledge v. Gulludge, 2D11-472 (Fla. 2nd DCA February 29, 2012). In this case, the couple was married for 30 years (long-term under Florida Statute 61.08) and the Wife was the primary breadwinner making approximately $60,000 per year. The Husband did not make more than $15,000 per year during the course of the marriage and at the time of divorce was making $9,000. The Husband also had a GED and a history of taking care of the children and doing the homemaking. In the divorce, the Husband was fairly and accurately requesting to receive permanent alimony (as available through Florida Statute if he can also show a need). The parties did not settle their case at mediation, so the case went for the judge to ultimately decide. The judge listened to the testimony and evidence and ruled in favor of the Wife finding that that Husband did not have a need for alimony and that he was underemployed.
The trial court’s decision was appealed and the appellate court reversed or overturned the trial court’s decision. The appellate court ruled that the Husband had demonstrated a need for alimony, but also agreed with the trial court, that he was under employed. However, no ruling by either the trial court or appellate court stated what the Husband should be earning with his GED and 30-year work history (e.g. minimal work with homecare and child keeping). The appellate court basically said that there was a need for the Husband to have alimony and that at least $1 of permanent alimony should be awarded in case the Husband could not find gainful employment, then he could have it modified.