HOW DOES THE MARITAL STANDARD OF LIVING AFFECT THE SIZE OF AN ALIMONY AWARD?

In a recently decided alimony case captioned Morgan v. Morgan, the Florida Court of Appeal ruled that the size of an alimony award is based upon the standard of living that was established by the parties during the course of the marriage, and not the parties’ postseparation lifestyle.

In Morgan v. Morgan, the husband appealed the final judgment of dissolution of marriage.  He challenged the trial court’s alimony award and its equitable distribution of the parties’ assets.  The Florida Court of Appeal reversed both of the trial court’s rulings on these issues.

During the course of the marriage, the husband and wife had a comfortable lifestyle.  They lived in large homes, frequently traveled, and never had to worry about paying their bills.  After the parties separated, the husband could only afford to live in a small apartment, drive an old truck, and could barely pay his bills.  The trial court’s final judgment stated that during the course of the marriage, the husband and wife lived a lifestyle that was “upper-middle class”. The lower court acknowledged that the husband’s current lifestyle was not consistent with the parties’ lifestyle during the course of the marriage.  At the time that the trial took place, the evidence showed that the wife’s income was seventy-five (75%) percent greater than the husband’s income.  Despite these findings, the trial court only awarded the husband one thousand ($1,000.00) dollars per month in alimony.

The Florida Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s ruling.  The appellate court ruled that in light of the standard of living established by the parties during the course of the marriage and the disparity in the husband and wife’s incomes, the trial court erred in making such a small award of alimony to the husband. The Florida Court of Appeal held that a trial court errs when it makes an alimony award that is based upon the parties’ postseparation lifestyle instead of utilizing the standard of living that was established by the parties during the course of the marriage.  The appellate court stated that permanent alimony is intended to enable a recipient spouse to maintain the standard of living that the parties established during the course of the marriage.  The purpose of alimony is to avoid, when possible, having one spouse to go from always having more than enough to only having enough to pay for the minimum essentials of shelter, clothing and food.  The lower court’s alimony award was reversed because it was not consistent with the standard of living that was established by the parties during the course of the marriage and created a large disparity in the parties’ post dissolution lifestyles.

To speak with a Palm Beach Gardens divorce attorney, contact the Lane Law Firm, P.A. at (561) 363-3400.

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