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August 14, 2014

The Effect of "RAIDS" on a Florida Divorce

Determining the requirement for and amount of child support and/or spousal support is an important part of many Florida divorces. The amount of income the paying spouse earns is highly important to these determinations, as it helps show their ability to pay a certain amount. Unfortunately, many soon-to-be former spouses use certain methods to lower the amount of income they earn or to misrepresent their earning power in order to avoid orders of high amounts of child or spousal support.

Specifically, many spouses develop "RAIDS," a term commonly used in family law that stands for "Recently Acquired Income Deficiency Syndrome." RAIDS occurs when a high-earning spouse suddenly reports a decrease in income, thereby expecting lower support requirements. Depending on their employment situation, spouses may have different methods of achieving this deceptive goal.

Salaried Spouses


The most common way for spouses receiving a salary or hourly wages to hide income is to suddenly decrease overtime hours. Regular overtime can substantially increase earning potential. If a spouse declines to work overtime for a period of time prior to a divorce, their paystubs will clearly reflect less income. Such spouses often return to their regular overtime hours and income immediately following a court ruling.

Salaried spouses may also renegotiate their contracts to temporarily receive some of their income as additional benefits, expense reimbursement, or some other form of compensation not readily identifiable as income on a paystub.

Commission-Paid Spouses


Spouses who work as salespeople and receive much or all of their income in the form of commissions may also develop RAIDS. This is often achieved in one of the following ways, among others:

· Not selling up to their full potential for a period of time;
· Continuing to make sales, but delaying the finalization of sales (and payment of commission) until after the divorce is final; and
· Having a fellow salesman take credit and receive commission for a sale, and then pay the spouse the commission in cash that you are unaware exists.

Self-Employed Spouses


It is perhaps easiest for self-employed spouses to significantly reduce or hide income. First, many self- employed individuals often transact in cash for at least some of their business deals, and they may easily hide this income by simply not reporting it to the IRS on their taxes. At that point, you may have to look to personal logbooks or other records of cash sales to prove that income. Additionally, self-employed individuals may substantially increase their business expenses, which works to lower their overall "income" on their tax returns.

These are only some examples of how spouses can use RAIDS to reduce the amount of support they are ordered to pay. An experienced Boca Raton family law attorney knows how to examine tax returns, pay statements, and other financial documents to identify RAIDS and make an argument to the court in favor of the child or spousal support that you truly deserve. If you are facing a divorce, do not hesitate to call the office of Alan R. Burton as soon as possible for assistance with your case.

August 11, 2014

Are Professional Degrees or Licenses Considered Marital Property in Florida?

Under Florida law, all marital property is equitably distributed between spouses that are divorcing. Marital property includes all debts and assets that a couple accumulates during a marriage. For couples that have been together since they were in school, this often raises the question of whether professional degrees or licenses allowing one of the spouses to engage in a particular profession are considered marital property. This is particularly at issue in situations where one party to the marriage chose to forgo his or her own educational or career opportunities in order to support the other spouse in their pursuits.

In Florida and most other states, the answer to the question posed above is "no." Importantly, while a professional degree itself is not considered marital property, there are other arguments that can be raised in order to ensure that the spouse without the professional degree or license has his or her financial needs met after a divorce.

The Florida Alimony Statute


Under the Florida alimony statute, courts are authorized to use a variety of factors in determining whether either party will be awarded alimony. In addition, alimony can be "bridge-the-gap," rehabilitative, duration, or permanent, and can be awarded as both periodic payments or lump sum payments, or both. Courts are allowed to consider whether either spouse was unfaithful in determining how much alimony to award, and can also consider the following factors:

· The standard of living the couple had during the marriage;
· How long the marriage lasted;
· Both parties age and physical condition;
· The financial resources of each party, including both marital and nonmarital assets;
· The earning potential, job skills, and employability of each part, as well as the time it would take for either party to get the training or education that would allow that party to become employed;
· Each party's contribution to the marriage, including homemaking, education, child care, and career building of the other party;
· The responsibility that either party will have in terms of any children of the marriage;
· The tax ramifications to either party of an alimony award;
· The sources of income available to each party; and
· Any other factor that may be necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.

As this list should make clear, courts have wide discretion in determining whether and how much alimony to award, and it specifically addresses the situation in which one spouse contributed to the education or career building of the other spouse. As a result, while a professional degree or license earning during the marriage will not be valuated and divided as part of the division of property, any contribution to that degree or license will be a factor in determining whether and how much alimony to award.

A specific type of alimony that may be awarded in a circumstance where one spouse forwent education in order to support the other is considered rehabilitative alimony. The alimony law authorizes that alimony may be awarded to a party seeking self-support through the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the acquisition of education, training, or work experience to develop work skills or credentials.

Contact a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation


Divorce proceedings in Florida can raise a number of legal issues that may have a significant impact on a person's life. As a result, anyone who is considering or currently going through a divorce should call Florida divorce attorney Alan R. Burton today at (954) 229-1660.

July 7, 2014

The Role of Vocational Experts in Divorce

When you are facing a divorce, it is always important to have a skilled, experienced attorney handling your case. In addition to knowing the rules and procedures of family courts, a qualified attorney has many resources that may help you get a favorable outcome in your divorce. One such resource is a vocational expert.

What is a vocational expert?


A vocational expert is a professional who studies which skills are most in demand in the current job market and, additionally, how much income a person should potentially be able to earn with those skills in certain careers. A vocational expert will examine an individual's education level, professional experience, interests, abilities, and other factors and compare those with others in the job market. As a result, these experts can estimate for which jobs a person may qualify and how much money that person may expect to earn.

How does a vocational expert help in divorce?


When a person is facing divorce, there are several ways a vocational expert may help. First, if you are seeking alimony, your spouse may insist that you do not need support. Even if you have been staying at home for years, a spouse may assert that you are qualified for a career with a large income and therefore can fully support yourself. A vocational expert can give an objective opinion on your chances of securing work in the current employment market and the kind of income you may expect to receive. This evidence can help show the court that you will need spousal support to pay the bills, at least for a certain period of time.

Additionally, your spouse may attempt to avoid paying spousal or child support by suddenly reporting a significant decrease in income. It is not unheard of for a high-earning spouse to actually resign from a position and take a lower-paying job to try to influence the court to order less child support or alimony. A vocational expert can examine your spouse's true earning potential based on available jobs and your spouse's qualifications and report their findings to the court. This can help expose any devious tactics your spouse may be using to avoid paying the true amount of support you deserve.

Finally, if your spouse reports a change in circumstances post-divorce that may modify court-ordered child or spousal support, a vocational expert may analyze the situation and determine whether there was truly a necessary change of circumstances. Additionally, if you have suffered a change in circumstances that renders you unable to pay court-ordered support, a vocational expert can corroborate the fact that your circumstances have truly changed due to illness, injury, or other factors that may affect employability.

If you believe you are on the brink of divorce, your first call should be to the Boca Raton office of Alan R. Burton. Mr. Burton provides the highest quality of representation for divorces and all family law matters and works to ensure that every client receives the best possible outcome. Do not hesitate to call our office for assistance today.

May 16, 2014

Will I Receive Alimony in My Florida Divorce?

Your life will likely change significantly following a divorce. Depending on your circumstances, you may have to move to a different home, divide up some of your valued possessions, and have to share custody of your children. Florida courts recognize the difficulties divorce may present and try to make divorce as fair and equitable as possible for both parties, depending on the particular circumstances in each case. One tool the court uses to even the playing field after a divorce is alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance. Alimony is financial payment from one former spouse to another.

Many spouses sacrifice educational or professional opportunities for the sake of the marriage, family, and household. For example, a husband may decide to stay at home to take care of the children so his wife can pursue advanced degrees and high-paying jobs. If the couple gets divorced, he may have significantly fewer economical and professional opportunities than his wife due to his sacrifice, at least for a certain period of time. In such cases, the court may require the wife to pay alimony to the husband until he can adequately support himself.

Types of Alimony


Alimony determinations are regulated by law in the state of Florida. Under Florida Statute Section 61.08, a court may award one of four types of alimony:

1. Bridge-the gap: Short-term alimony for up to two years to make the married-to-single transition easier;
2. Rehabilitative: To help one spouse support themselves for a limited time while they take the necessary steps to support themselves, and the spouse requesting alimony must present a rehabilitative plan to the court, which may involve school or job training;
3. Durational: Support for a limited period of time, but does not require that one spouse submit a rehabilitative plan;
4. Permanent: Long-term payments, which are usually reserved for longer marriages; permanent alimony is used to allow a spouse to enjoy the standard of living experienced during the marriage. Permanent alimony is most often awarded to an older spouse, or a spouse who cannot work due to illness or other factors.

Factors for the Court


In order to decide whether to award alimony and which type to award, the law advises the court to consider numerous factors, including:

· The length of the marriage;
· Standard of living enjoyed during the marriage;
· Age, health, and abilities of the spouses;
· Division of assets in the divorce;
· Each person's contribution to the marriage, including both financial contributions as well as childcare, tending to the household, supporting the other party, and more;
· Custodial arrangements;
· The education, skills, employment prospects, and earning capacity of each spouse;
· Other sources of income, such as investments or insurance policies;
· Any other factor the court considers relevant for an equitable and fair determination.

As you can imagine, alimony requests are usually contested, so both spouses must argue their cases in court regarding the above factors. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney on your side to help handle alimony or any other matter that may arise during a divorce. If you are facing divorce in the Boca Raton or Ft. Lauderdale areas, call attorney Alan R. Burton today for help.

November 25, 2013

Alimony Reform in Florida

The current alimony laws "on the books" in Florida have been under recent attack. Although major changes were approved by the legislative branch of the government last year, the Governor issued a veto at the "11th hour."

You should expect to see a further attempt to pass some significant changes to the alimony laws this year as well.

Currently, there are four categories of alimony that an individual may be entitled to receive. None of the categories are mutually exclusive; a recipient may qualify for more than one type.

On short term marriages, those of which have a duration of less than 7 years, bridge-the-gap alimony may be appropriate. This type of alimony is to assist an individual with certain identifiable needs, and to assist one from making the transition from married life to single life. Bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed a period of two (2) years, and is not modifiable once awarded.

Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to an individual in order to give them the appropriate education or training to become self sufficient. The presentation of a specific plan of rehabilitation, along with the cost, is required.

Durational alimony is available to an individual who has been involved in a short term or moderate term marriage. A moderate term marriage is one of over 7 years, but less than seventeen (17) years. The length of the award of durational alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage. The amount of the award is subject to modification, but the length of the award is not, subject to exceptional circumstances.

A long term marriage, one in which the duration is in excess of 17 years, entitles one to become a candidate for permanent alimony. The Court is required to make a finding that no other form of alimony is fair and equitable between the parties if it is the intention of the Court to make this type of award. Permanent alimony is subject to modification, and it terminates upon the death of the recipient or the payor.

When the issue of alimony is presented to a Court, the Court is required to examine several factors in determining the appropriate amount and type of support. THe court will examine the following factors:

1. Standard of living of the parties.
2. Duration of the marriage.
3. Age of each of the parties, along with the emotional and physical health of each
4. Financial resources available to both parties
5. Education of each of the parties; vocational skills, earning capacities
6. Contribution to the marriage, including services rendered for homemaking and
raising children, and assisting the other in building their career.
7. Tax treatment of any alimony awarded, such as whether it will be taxable to the recipient or not.
8. Income from any sources available to each party
9. Responsibilities for minor children after the divorce
10. Any other factor necessary to do justice between the parties

If you wish to examine the alimony statute in Florida in more detail, you can find it under Florida Statute 61.08.

More detailed information, specific to your individual situation, can also be obtained by calling me directly at 954-229-1660. I will be more than happy to discuss your case with you, free of charge.

August 7, 2012

The importance of a prenuptial agreement

Why is a prenuptial agreement important and what purpose does it serve? A prenuptial agreement is a contract between two adults, and it can cover a myriad of issues, limited only by the imagination of the contracting parties.
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A prenuptial agreement most definitely, and frequently will, alter the rights of the parties should a divorce subsequently occur. Many agreements provide for the complete waiver and relinquishment of alimony and other support obligations from one party to the other. However, under Florida law, a waiver of temporary alimony under an agreement is unenforceable. You may wish to confer and consult with an experienced divorce attorney regarding this, as well as any other aspects of a prenuptial agreement.

Valuable property rights can also be given up under the provisions of a prenuptial agreement. In Florida, marital assets are most frequently divided 50-50 upon a divorce, so if one party feels that they will be contributing to the marriage in a greater proportion, they might want to provide for that contingency.

The actress Courteney Cox, who is involved in a divorce proceeding with David Arquette, apparently overlooked the importance of a prenuptial agreement. You can read her story now by following the link to her story in Forbes.

Although a marriage is considered a "partnership", that partnership does not necessarily have to be an equal partnership. This, in essence, is what a prenuptial agreement is all about. Courteney Cox may learn an expensive lesson in failing to participate in the execution of a prenuptial agreement.

Prenuptial agreements must, at a minimum, include complete financial disclosure by both parties; be executed without duress; and each party should have independent legal advice. Many times the validity of agreements are challenged, so a financial sanction should be assessed against the challenger who does not succeed in their endeavor to void an agreement.

Further information may be obtained on this area of the law by contacting Alan R. Burton, Esq. directly. Appointments are available in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale.

August 4, 2012

Does the length of my marriage make a difference when I get divorced?

The length of a marriage becomes one relevant consideration for the court to consider in a divorce case if alimony is an issue in the proceedings.

The Florida legislature has attempted to bring some standardization to the awards of alimony in divorce proceedings. Alimony has historically been that unknown "wild card" in contested divorce cases.
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Permanent alimony is now reserved primarily for long term marriages, which by statutory definition, is now defined as a marriage in excess of 17 years. A short term marriage is one under 7 years. Anything in between is a marriage of moderate length.

Bridge-the-gap alimony can be awarded to a spouse in a short term marriage, and it may not exceed 2 years. Bridge-the-gap alimony is not subject to modification.

After bridge-the-gap, you will see rehabilitative alimony and durational alimony awards. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to assist the recipient in either re-establishing the skills to be financially self sufficient, or to obtain the skills to do so. This type of alimony may end with non compliance with a proposed plan of rehabilitation on the part of the recipient.

Durational alimony may be awarded for up to a maximum number of years equal to the length of the marriage. The number of years is discretionary, based upon other factors which the court may consider.

You can read the Florida alimony statute by clicking the link attached. All of the factors which the court will consider are included within the statute.

Having appropriate, competent representation in a divorce proceeding is important, and becomes ever more so important when the duration of the marriage increases.


August 2, 2012

The end of permanent alimony in Florida

Currently there are four types of alimony awarded under Florida law. Florida Statute 61.08 provides for the possibility of an award for Bridge-the-Gap, Rehabilitative, Durational, and Permanent Alimony.

Although permanent alimony is "still on the books", there have been strong movements forming in south Florida and across the country for the reform of alimony, including the abolishment of permanent alimony entirely.

As an example, a recent article in the Asbury Park Press addressed the efforts to have the New Jersey Legislature examine the alimony laws currently in existence in that state, just as Massachusetts has done in recent years.

In Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and throughout south Florida the "Second Wives Club" is an organization that has strong support for the abolishment of permanent alimony. A recent article appearing in the Sacramento Bee is illustrative of the frustrations felt by many people.

Recent legislation in Florida has taken steps to make it more difficult to receive permanent alimony if the duration of the marriage is under 17 years in length. There must be significant and exceptional circumstances at play for a judge to award an individual permanent alimony in a marriage of less than 17 years.

For more information on this timely issue, contact a family law attorney who has substantial experience in dealing with these as well as other family law issues.

July 14, 2012

Alimony in Florida

The Florida legislation is attempting to bring uniformity to the subject of alimony in Florida.

New legislation now objectively defines a marriage as short term, long term, and moderate term. If a marriage is 7 years or less, it is short term. If the marriage is 17 years or more, it is long term. Anywhere in between, it is a marriage of moderate length.

The length of the marriage is important, since the type of alimony available depends upon the length of the marriage.

Florida Statute 61.08 is the alimony statute in Florida. There are four main types of alimony in Florida, as follows:

Bridge-the- gap alimony

Rehabilitative alimony

Durational alimony

Permanent alimony

Bridge-the-gap alimony may not exceed a term of 2 years, and is not subject to modification as to the length or the amount of the award.

Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to a party to assist them in obtaining the capacity for self support.

Durational alimony is generally awarded when permanent alimony is inappropriate. Durational alimony can be awarded for a maximum number of years equal to the length of the marriage.

Permanent alimony is generally reserved for those cases in excess of 17 years in length, and is awarded to an individual who lacks the ability to meet his or her needs and necessities of life.

These are all generalizations, and each case must be considered on a case by case basis. I have over 30 years of experience involving cases dealing with alimony,of all kinds, and can offer you the appropriate guidance to resolve your case quickly and efficiently.

March 25, 2012

Alimony Reform in Florida

There has been much discussion in Florida regarding alimony reform, but it has not arrived just yet.

In order to understand the future of alimony, you have to be familiar with the current laws in Florida regarding alimony. Alimony is governed by Florida Statute 61.08. The initial step for a judge in deciding whether to award alimony or not is to first determine the need of one party versus the ability of the other party to meet that need.

1377964_tightened_100_dollar_roll_.jpgOnce that bridge has been crossed, the court will then decide on what type of alimony is appropriate under the specific facts of the case.

The award of alimony has become a bit more objective in recent years, since the length of a marriage is critical to the type and nature of an award of alimony.

Florida defines a short term marriage as any marriage under 7 years in duration. A long term marriage is a marriage over 17 years in duration. Anything in between is a moderate term marriage.

Why is the length of the marriage important? Simply because there are certain presumptions in favor of a particular type of alimony, based upon the duration of the marriage. For example, there is a presumption in favor of permanent alimony when you have a long term marriage.

In circumstances when permanent alimony may not be appropriate, durational alimony may be awarded by the court. Durational alimony may not exceed the number of years that the parties were married.

In short term marriages, bridge-the-gap or rehabilitative alimony may be more appropriate.

Bridge the gap alimony may not exceed a period of 2 years duration.

Recent efforts to modify the existing alimony laws in Florida did not come to pass during the most recent legislative session in 2012. To get an idea where Florida is heading, review of the House Bill which was proposed, but which failed, will shed some light on this matter.

House Bill 549 attempted to do away with permanent alimony, and changed the category to "long term alimony." Additionally, the amount of any alimony award was capped out at 20% of the payor's net monthly income, which was averaged out over the past three (3) years.

A long term marriage, under the proposal, involves a marriage over 20 years, rather than the existing 17 year marriage. In considering an award of durational alimony, the award cannot exceed 50% of the number of years the parties were married.

Although this bill did not pass, it should give you an idea of the future direction of alimony in the state of Florida.

January 10, 2011

Retroactive alimony is there for the asking!

pile of money desktop.jpgThe entitlement to an award of retroactive alimony is a right, and not a privilege, if the circumstances support the award. See alimony update for additional information on this subject.

The case of Gremel v. Gremel, 35 Fla. L. weekly D2291a (Fla. 2nd DCA 2010) illustrates the point. Mrs. Gremel separated from her husband in December 2003. She did not file her divorce petition until March 15, 2007, more than three years after her initial separation. On April 1, 2008, the trial court entered a temporary order requiring Mr. Gremel to pay his wife $2950 per month, as of April 1, 2008.

The appellate court stated that Mrs. Gremel may very well be entitled to retroactive alimony from March 15, 2007, the date of the filing of her petition for dissolution of marriage. See Valentine v. Van Sickle, 35 Fla. L. Weekly D1663 (Fla. 2d DCA Jul. 28, 2010).

The trial court was instructed to consider the wife's needs and the husband's ability to pay during the retroactive time period sought by the wife in determining whether the wife's retroactive alimony request is appropriate.

December 31, 2010

Temporary support....how much is really needed?

In a case recently decided, a wife was awarded an astounding sum of $75,000.00 per month for temporary support for herself and her child. Stanton v. Stanton, 2D10-919 (2010).

The appellate court said this amount simply could not stand, as the amount was not supported by competent substantial evidence.

The trial court should consider the standard of living in addition to the need of one spouse and the other spouse's ability to pay. de Gutierrez v. Gutierrez, 19 So.3d 1110, 1113 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009).

Here, in this case, the wife had testified that her monthly expenses totaled $44,029, including those of her child. Her financial affidavit also indicated her monthly expenses to total $44,029. It was clear to the appellate court that the trial judge had erred in making an award of $75,000 per month for the wife when the evidence reflected that the wife's needs were $44,029. Also CLICK HERE to visit my site for the most updated information on the new alimony laws in Florida.

The appellate court gave further instructions to the trial court that the award to the wife must be based upon her needs, and should not attempt "to fund the enjoyment of every
little luxury enjoyed before divorce." Levine v. Levine, 964 So.2d 741, 742-43 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).

The purpose of alimony is to provide for the less wealthy spouse above bare subsistence levels, not to fund the enjoyment of every little luxury enjoyed before divorce. "Fixing alimony at a profligate standard of living is to turn alimony into a lottery. That is one reason why the standard of living during marriage is not a super factor trumping all other factors in awarding alimony. Jaffy v. Jaffy, 965 So.2d 825, 828 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007).
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Although the sum of $44,029, awarded to the wife on a monthly basis was certainly not a nominal amount, this case still clearly points out that the standard for temporary relief is clearly the needs of the requesting spouse versus the ability of the other spouse to meet those needs.

September 4, 2010

Are lump sum alimony payments dischargeable in bankruptcy?

This question frequently arises in the context of a subsequently filed bankruptcy proceeding. Generally, the obligor, or person who is obliged to make the lump sum alimony payment, seeks to have the payment or payments discharged through a bankruptcy proceeding.

The resolution of these types of situations is of course dependent upon the intent of the parties. The intent is ascertained by examining the language used in the parties agreement. Although the language used in an agreement is not conclusive, the words are given weight in determining the intent of the parties. Howell v. Howell, 207 So.2d 507 (Fla. 2d DCA 1968); Woodworth v. Woodworth, 385 So2d 1024 (Fla. 4th DCA 1980).

If the court ultimately determines that an obligation, which is labeled as alimony in an agreement, is in fact alimony, the alimony, which is lump sum, payable in installments, is is a vested right and not subject to modification. Such a determination would preclude the obligation from being discharged in bankruptcy, and would further subject the obligor to the contempt powers of the court if the obligation is not paid. Zuccarello v. Zuccarello, 429 So.2d 68 (Fla. 3d DCA 1983); McCombes v. McCombes, 440 So.2d 683 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983).

However, if the parties to an agreement had agreed that payments required under an agreement were for settlement of property rights, and not intended as alimony, those payments could not be enforceable by contempt, and would therefore be dischargeable in bankruptcy. Pabian v. Pabian, 480 So.2d 237 (Fla. 4th DCA 1985).

The contempt powers of the court simply cannot be used to punish someone for contempt, when the payments required from that individual are not support related. In Veiga v. State of Florida, 561 So.2d 1335, (15 Fla. L. Weekly D1487), the husband was found in criminal contempt for failing to pay his wife $25,000.00 as "lump sum alimony for purposes of equitable division of the interest in his business." Having determined that the obligation was for property settlement issues, rather than support, the contempt order was reversed. The payment then becomes a dischargeable obligation in bankruptcy.

It is very clear from the cases that emanate from Boca Raton, Palm Beach County, South Florida as well as throughout the state of Florida, that the only remedies for non payment of property obligations are those that are available to creditors against debtors. Underwood v. Underwood, 64 So.2d 281 (Fla. 1953); Hine v. Hine, 558 So.2d 496 (Fla. 3d DCA 1990); Carlin v. Carlin, 310 So.2d 403 (Fla. 4th DCA 1975); and Howell v. Howell, 207 So.2d 507 (Fla. 2d DCA 1968).

In conclusion, the lump sum alimony payments will only be dischargeable if the intent was to treat those payments as property rights versus a true alimony obligation. Extreme caution must be exercised in drafting any agreements so as to establish clearly the true intent of the partes.

August 28, 2010

How much alimony is just too much?


We now know that a 17 year marriage is considered a long term marriage under Florida law. A long term marriage raises the presumption of permanent alimony. The new alimony statute lists various criteria that the trial judge should consider in making the determination to award permanent alimony, but it doesn't tell us how much is to be paid.

The standard in alimony awards continues to be the needs of the recipient, balanced against the ability of the obligor to pay and meet those needs. There are thousands of cases on the books which deal with alimony. The following cases are representative of alimony awards which the court has ruled to be excessive, and can certainly be utilized and applied when considering the circumstances in your own particular case.


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In Thomas v. Thomas, 418 So.2d 316 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982), the wife was awarded 58% of the husband's net income. The court ruled that this amount was excessive and reversed the award.

Although there was no mention of any percentages being paid, the court in Posner v. Posner, 988 So.2d 128 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008) reversed an award when "the total support and expense awards consumed nearly all of the obligor's net monthly income."

An abuse of discretion was found in Gentile v. Gentile, 565 So.2d 820, 822 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990) when the husband was ordered to pay 79% of his income for support.

In Benenfeld v. Benenfeld, 705 So. 2d 1072 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998) an award of 80% of the husband's net income was found to be excessive.

Seventy Six (76%) percent of the husband's income was ruled to be excessive in Decker v. Decker, 660 So. 2d 1162 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995).

Dennison v. Dennison, 852 So.2d 422 (Fla. 4th DCA 2003), the court found an award of alimony, in the amount of $3,000.00, combined with an award of child support of $1,500.00, to be excessive. The husband was showing net monthly income of $5,500.00.

In the case of Sokol v. Sokol, 441 So.2d 682 (Fla. 2d DCA 1983), an award of 71% of the husband's net income was found to be an abuse of discretion.

70% of the husband's income was excessive in Kaylor v. Kaylor, 413 So.2d 870 (Fla. 2d DCA 1982).

In Casella v. Casella, 569 So.2d 848 (Fla. 4th DCA 1990), an award of 70% of the husband's net income was also found to be clearly excessive.

The ultimate question that arises from this discussion is what percentage of support, when paid, becomes excessive? There is unfortunately, no simple answer. Each individual case must be examined on its own set of facts. What may appear to be an excessive award of alimony in one case, may not necessarily be excessive in a different case. It all depends on the unique facts of each case as they come before the court.

August 22, 2010

A long term marriage is now officially 17 years !


Some areas of the law are "black and white" in that based upon a prescribed set of facts, you knew exactly where you stood. Some areas are "gray", which is especially true in the context of a divorce case, where the family court judge presiding over the case has a wide range of discretion . This was never more true than when dealing with the issue of alimony.

Alimony was always the "wild card" in a divorce case. If the entitlement to alimony was apparent, the recipient never really knew what to expect as to how long the financial assistance would continue, nor did the obligor really know what their exposure would be to pay the obligation. That has all changed now, with the enactment of Florida Statute 61.08, effective July 1, 2010.

The Florida legislature has now categorized marriages into three types, short term; moderate-term; and long term marriage, all of which are determined by the length of the marriage.

A short term marriage is one in which the duration is less than 7 years; a moderate-term marriage is from 7 years but less than 17 years in duration; and a long term marriage is one which exceeds 17 years duration. The time period is measured from the date of the marriage to the date of filing the dissolution of marriage action.

The length of the marriage is important, since it becomes the determining factor in the type of alimony to be paid and received. For example, once you fall into a long term marriage bracket, the presumption exists for the payment of permanent alimony, the amount of which would continue to be measured by the needs of the recipient, balanced against the financial ability of the obligor to meet those needs. Although there is only a presumption in favor of permanent alimony, rather than a directive, that presumption may be difficult to overcome.

What about the other two categories, short term and moderate-term marriages? What is the relationship between alimony and these types of marriages? The Florida legislature, in Chapter 61.08, has defined four types of alimony, which are bridge-the-gap; rehabilitative; durational; and permanent.

Bridge-the-gap alimony is generally reserved for those falling within a short term marriage, and is utilized to assist one in making the transition from being married to being single. The length of the award cannot exceed two years.

An award of rehabilitative alimony may be awarded to assist a party in establishing the capacity for self support. This is to either redevelop previous skills or for receiving the training to acquire new skills. There must be a specific plan in place to achieve these objectives.

Durational alimony may be awarded when permanent alimony is not appropriate, and it may not exceed the length of the marriage.

By having these objective standards in place, the subject matter of alimony is now approaching the "black and white" zone of the law.