Articles Tagged with Alimony

There are four types of alimony in Florida.  They are permanent alimony, durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony and bridge-the-gap, alimony.  Trial courts can award one or any combination of these four types of alimony.

In a case captioned Ogle v. Ogle, the Florida Court of Appeal recently described the purpose of these four different types of alimony. The purpose of bridge-the-gap alimony, is to provide funds to assist a person in making the transition from being married to being single.  Its purpose is to provide funds for identifiable, legitimate short-term needs. The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to provide assistance to parties in becoming self-supporting through education and job training.

The purpose of permanent alimony is to provide for the needs of a recipient spouse as they were established during the course of a marriage.  It is intended to provide funds to a spouse who lacks the financial ability to pay for these expenses.  Finally, the purpose of durational alimony is to provide economic assistance to a recipient spouse for a specific period of time after a “moderate duration” marriage.  A “moderate duration” marriage has a duration that is between seven and seventeen years.  Durational alimony may not exceed the term of the marriage.  It is available when permanent alimony is not appropriate.

A recently decided alimony case captioned Rodolph v. Rodolph involved two appeals by the husband.  Since both appeals involved the same parties and the same facts, the Florida Court of Appeal consolidated the cases into one appeal.  In Rodolph v. Rodolph, the husband appealed the lower court’s order denying his Supplemental Petition for Termination or Modification of Alimony.  Additionally, the Husband appealed the award of $39,000.00 in attorney’s fees to his wife.

In this case, the husband and wife were married for 33 years.  At the time of the divorce, the Husband had been a corrections officer for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for twenty-four years.  In the final judgment of dissolution, the wife was granted permanent periodic alimony and a portion of husband’s retirement funds.  Husband filed a Supplemental Petition to Either Modify or Terminate Alimony.  Husband’s Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony alleged that husband did not have the ability to continue to pay alimony because he was involuntarily unemployed due to his heart condition, his neck and back problems, and carpal tunnel syndrome in his wrist and arm.  Husband also alleged that his wife no longer had a need for alimony because she received the first share of husband’s retirement funds, she was receiving disability payments and her monthly expenses were reduced. While Husband’s Supplemental Petition for Modification was pending, Wife filed a Motion for Contempt of Court against Husband because Husband ceased making alimony payments.

At the hearing on husband’s Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony, husband testified that he was receiving social security payments, but was earning no income.  He also testified that he remarried and was living with his new wife and her children. Husband purchased a new home and incurred various expenses.  In order to meet his expenses, husband withdrew $3,500 per month from his retirement account.  Wife testified that her expenses for rent, association fees, water, garbage, insurance, cable, and donations to religious organizations exceeded her income.

An alimony case captioned Dills v. Perez was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal.  In this case, the former wife appealed the ruling of the lower court.  The former husband and the former wife were divorced. As part of their dissolution of marriage proceedings, the former husband and the former wife entered into a marital settlement agreement.  The parties’ marital settlement agreement required the former husband to pay durational alimony to the former wife for forty-eight (48) months.  Additionally, the parties’ marital settlement agreement contained a provision that stated that the former husband’s obligation to pay durational alimony to the former wife was non-modifiable.  Although the parties’ marital settlement agreement contained a provision that the former husband’s alimony obligation would not terminate upon the former husband’s death, it did not specifically discuss the effect that remarriage would have on the former husband’s durational alimony obligation.

The former wife remarried prior to the expiration of the forty-eight (48) month period.  The former husband filed a notice of termination of durational alimony.  The former wife filed a motion in which she sought to have the husband held in contempt of court and sought compliance with the terms of the marital settlement agreement.  This post judgment matter was heard by a general magistrate.  The general magistrate ruled that the former wife’s remarriage entitled the former husband to stop making alimony payments to the former wife.  The general magistrate reasoned that the former husband’s alimony obligation should terminate upon the former wife’s remarriage because the parties’ marital settlement agreement did not expressly provide for termination of the former husband’s alimony obligation upon remarriage.

The general magistrate’s ruling was appealed to the trial court.  The trial court approve the recommendation of the general magistrate and terminated the former husband’s alimony obligation.

On June 24, 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed the Florida Alimony Reform Bill that was presented to him by the Florida Legislature on June 17, 2022.  Governor DeSantis, a Harvard trained attorney and former Special Assistant United States Attorney, vetoed the legislation based upon the fact that it violated Article I, Section 10 of the Florida Constitution.  In his veto letter to Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd, Governor DeSantis stated: “If CS/CS/SB1796 were to become law and be given retroactive effect as the Legislature intends, it would unconstitutionally impair vested rights under certain preexisting marital settlement agreements. See art. I, § 10, Fla. Const.”

The Alimony Reform Bill would have had significant ramifications, including the following.

First, under the 2022 Alimony Reform Bill, permanent alimony would have been abolished for all divorce cases pending after July 1, 2022.  As a result of the Governor’s veto, there are now four types of alimony in Florida.  They are bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, and permanent alimony.

In an alimony case captioned Tanner v. Tanner, the Florida Court of Appeal recently ruled that in order to determine whether a payor’s voluntary retirement is reasonable, a trial court is required to consider the payor’s age, health, reason for retiring, type of work, and the age at which others who perform the same type of work normally retire.

In Tanner v. Tanner, the Husband appealed the trial court’s order denying his petition for modification of his divorce decree. The parties were divorced in January 2016. The final judgment of dissolution required the Husband to pay permanent periodic alimony to the Wife. In September 2018, the Husband filed a petition to modify the divorce decree in which he sought to eliminate or reduce the amount of his alimony payments.

In the Husband’s supplemental petition for modification of alimony, the Husband stated that his employer terminated his employment, and that his medical condition precluded him from finding similar employment.  The trial court denied the Husband’s petition for modification of alimony based upon the fact that it found the Husband’s retirement at age 64 to be unreasonable. In his appeal, the Husband argued that his retirement was reasonable based on his age and his failing health.

An alimony case involving the imputation of income was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal.  In a case captioned Douglas v. Douglas, the Florida Court of Appeal recently ruled that the party who seeks to impute income to the other spouse bears the burden of proving that the other spouse is employable and that jobs are currently available for which the recipient spouse is qualified. 

In Douglas v. Douglas, the husband appealed several of the rulings that the trial court made in the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.  The parties were married for eight years.  They were the parents of two children.  The wife was a stay-at-home mother, who took care of the parties’ children during the course of the marriage.  She did not work outside of the marital home during the marriage.  After the parties separated, the wife unsuccessfully applied for over thirty jobs during the parties’ separation. 

The husband was a professional basketball player. During his career, he played for the New York Knicks, Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and the Miami Heat.  Recently, the husband played on a number of European teams.  The wife filed the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. 

Alimony payments may be reduced or terminated when a former spouse enters into a supportive relationship.  The payor bears the burden to prove that a supportive relationship exists.  Some of the factors that Florida courts assess in determining whether a supportive relationship exists are as follows:

First, whether the recipient and the cohabiting party have held themselves out as a married couple.

Second, the amount of time that the parties have resided together in a permanent residence.

An alimony case involving the reimbursement of business expenses was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned Ortega v. Wood.  In Ortega v. Wood, the husband was an optician who owned an optical business with his mother.  The wife sought to impute income to the husband for in-kind benefits and business expense reimbursements that were provided to the husband by his business.  The optical business provided the husband with an apartment at no cost and paid for his personal expenses, including his dentist appointments, his doctor’s appointments, his massages, his lab tests, his pharmaceuticals, his lawn mower, and products that he ordered from GNC.

In reaching its alimony determination, the trial court did not consider the business’ provision of the husband’s apartment and the payments for the husband’s medical appointments, dental appointments, lab tests, massages, GNC products, and pharmaceuticals to be income. Because the husband testified that the business provided all of its employees with the same reimbursements, the trial court ruled that these payments were reasonable business expenses and did not consider them to be income when it calculated the husband’s alimony obligation.

The wife appealed the trial court’s Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage to the Florida Court of Appeal.  The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the trial court and held that the trial court should have included the in-kind payments and expense reimbursements that husband received from the optical business in determining the husband’s alimony obligation.  The appellate court pointed out that under Florida law, for purposes of calculating alimony, “income” is defined as any type of payment, including, without limitation, salary, wages, bonuses, commissions, disability benefits, worker’s compensation, retirement benefits and annuities, dividends, pensions, interest, trusts, royalties, and any other payments made by a private entity, person, or governmental entity.

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.

In an alimony case captioned Speigner v. Speigner, the parties were married for almost twenty (20) years.  Both parties worked during the course of the marriage.  The Husband had the larger income.  The Wife worked, raised the parties’ children and ran the household.

After hearing the evidence, the trial court found that the Wife had a need for support and the former husband had the ability to pay.  The court stated that the Wife had significant business acumen and found that both the Husband and the Wife had the capacity to earn additional income. The trial court awarded the Wife eight years of durational alimony.

The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling.  In reversing the lower court’s ruling the appellate court pointed out that in Florida, a long-term marriage is a marriage that exceeds seventeen years.  There is a rebuttable presumption that permanent alimony will be awarded following a long-term marriage.  This presumption can only be rebutted if there is proof that after termination of the alimony payments the recipient spouse has the capacity to support him or herself at the marital standard of living.  Durational alimony is only appropriate if the court finds that the recipient spouse does not have an ongoing need for support on a permanent basis.  In order to justify an award of durational alimony following a long-term marriage, a court must find that the recipient spouse is capable of attaining a level of self-support that is commensurate with the marital standard of living at the time that the durational alimony expires.

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