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Florida Alimony: What you don’t know can hurt you

On Behalf of | Jul 27, 2016 | Firm News

Alimony. What did reading this word conjure for you? It can’t be anything good. When it comes to alimony, there is either someone who isn’t thrilled about paying it or someone fearful that one day the checks will cease to come. If you are experiencing a contested divorce, you may be fighting against the prospect of paying alimony or fighting to receive it.

And you may be earnestly Googling the word “alimony” trying to find as much information as possible from all manner of resources. Caution is recommended when doing research on the internet. As you know, not everything you find on the internet is completely true. Sometimes what you find is just downright false. Google “Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.” The results of that search should drive my point home.

In addition to prowling the internet, you may also be reaching out to family and friends for advice. For those of you from other states, please don’t make the mistake of applying what happened to cousin Karen in Pennsylvania, to your present situation in Florida. Family law is specific to each state and while some state laws are similar, others are vastly different. And if you have a loved one who experienced a Florida divorce and alimony was at issue, please know that even if your situations may appear to be similar, there may be crucial differences in the facts of your specific matter that could lead to a contrasting result.

Our alimony laws are governed not only by Florida Statutes Chapter 61, but also by an ever-evolving body of case law handed down on a near-daily basis by our District Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Our understanding and interpretation of the Statutes is continually being “tweaked” by recent cases. So, when you go online and attempt to ascertain what might happen in your case based on what has happened in other Florida divorces, it is nearly impossible to predict what might exactly happen.

And this uncertainty is compounded by the fact that unlike Florida child support, which is based on standardized calculations, Florida alimony has no such framework. Florida Statutes Section 61.08(2) sets forth the ultimate question that must be answered prior to proceeding with further consideration of alimony in the divorce: Does the party wanting alimony need it and does the other party have the ability to pay it?

The answer to this question springs forth from an exploration of the facts – not what the parties believe is subjectively fair. This determination is the product of an analysis of the sworn financial affidavits of the parties and at the very least, the mandatory disclosures that each party must provide the other regarding assets and liabilities. Further discovery may be required, including interrogatories and depositions.

If a factual need for alimony exists and a factual ability to pay alimony exists, Florida Statutes Section 61.08(2)(a)-(j) sets forth a non-exhaustive list of relevant factors that must be considered when deciding the type and amount of alimony that should be granted.

This list includes such factors as length of marriage, standard of living established during the marriage, and contributions of each party to the marriage.

If at this point you want to see this list, I have good news for you. All Florida Statutes are available for viewing by the public. This is the type of Googling I can recommend. Use “Florida Statutes” for your search terms and this should be your top hit: Click on Title VI. Scroll down to Chapter 61. Click on Part I: General Provisions. Click on 61.08.

One look at this Florida Statute should lead you to the realization that if alimony is at issue in your divorce, you should not risk going this process alone. Just because it’s possible to be unrepresented in your Florida divorce, doesn’t mean that it is always in your best interests to do so. This is especially so when complicated matters such as alimony are at issue.

I would be honored to be of service to you in navigating the sometimes-murky waters of Florida divorce. Please call Mara Law, P.A. to schedule your consultation. I sincerely look forward to meeting you and helping you.