Articles Tagged with spousal maintenance

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On the surface of it, the decision about whether to continue working after you have children or to leave the workforce for a certain number of years after your children are born is more controversial than it should be. It is not hard to find blogs and countless discussion forums full of unkind sentiments toward one or the other type of parent. Working mothers might imagine that the mommies on the playground in the middle of the day are judging them for being self-centered career women, while stay-at-home moms might imagine that their peers who continued working see them as boring and lacking drive. Fortunately, Florida law recognizes the contribution of income-earning spouses to a marriage and a family, and it also recognizes the contribution of spouses who do not have a paid job. In fact, Florida divorce courts freely acknowledge that having one spouse stay home with the children can be a source of support to the career of the other spouse and the financial health of a family.

Alimony and Stay-at-Home Parents

Permanent alimony in Florida is the stuff of legend, but it is neither a given nor terribly elusive.  It all depends on the specific circumstances of the family. Typically, the recipient of permanent alimony is someone who was married for at least 17 years and did not earn an income for most of the marriage. Besides chronic illnesses, being a stay-at-home parent is the most common reason for not working during a long marriage. These are some recent cases where stay-at-home parents have requested alimony; in some cases, the courts awarded it. Continue reading

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Of Florida’s six types of alimony, permanent alimony is probably the one that gets the most publicity and inspires the longest legal battles. Florida is one of only a few states where a court can require a divorced person to make monthly alimony payments to his or her former spouse indefinitely. Usually, courts only award permanent alimony when the couple was married for 17 years or more. That is a long enough time for the supported spouse to assume that the couple’s financial situation is permanent. After marriages of such length, it is also likely that the spouses are close to retirement age and may have health problems associated with age.

Courts also sometimes award permanent alimony after a long marriage when the supported spouse is young enough to have a career ahead of her. Kimberly Dickson successfully argued before an appeals court that, because of the 20 years she had spent as a stay-at-home parent, her earning potential was considerably less than if she and her former husband had not agreed that she should stay home for all those years. In other words, courts take into account a spouse’s contributions to a marriage that are not in the form of currency and other material assets. Kruse v. Levesque is another case where an appeal court awarded permanent alimony to a woman in her 40s; in this case, the marriage had lasted only 11 years, and the court ruled that permanent alimony was appropriate because of the wife’s disability. Continue reading

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When the phrase “imputed income” is mentioned, the first image that comes to many people’s minds is the media stereotype of the deadbeat dad. They picture a man who refuses to seek work or who only takes jobs that pay under the table. The stereotypical deadbeat dad is someone who cares more about avoiding paying child support than about the wellbeing of his children. His pride will not allow him to let the court tell him how to spend his money, no matter how much or how little of it he has. He lets his bitterness toward his ex-wife cloud his judgment, so the court decides how much he should be earning and forces him to pay, setting in motion a cycle of bitterness and unfulfilled obligations.

Regardless of the fact that there are far fewer true deadbeat dads in real life than there are in the popular imagination, child support obligations are not the only reason that Florida’s family courts make decisions based on someone’s imputed income. The Koscher v. Koscher case involves the divorce of a wealthy couple who did not have minor children at the time of the divorce. Instead, the judge relied on imputed income purely to determine alimony payments.

What is Imputed Income?

In short, imputed income is estimated potential income. When a supporting spouse (or a parent paying child support) is earning an income, the courts base the amount of support payments on the income amount. If the court determines that the person is voluntarily unemployed or intentionally earning less money than he or she could, the court bases the support payments on what the person should be earning based on his or her previous work experience and previous income amounts. Continue reading

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Florida is one of only a few states in which judges can award permanent alimony to the spouse with the lower income or earning potential as part of a divorce decree. For a novelist with a certain mindset, Florida’s spousal support laws could be a plot point in a farce about materialistic social climbers and wealthy business tycoons. (Would Bunny Lebowski in The Big Lebowski have had to stage her own abduction if she could have just sued for permanent alimony?) In practice, permanent alimony is one of the least frequently awarded forms of spousal support.  The only people who are even eligible to receive permanent spousal support are those who have been married for 17 years or more. Most permanent alimony recipients are elderly or have a chronic illness that would make gainful employment difficult or impossible.

Local media have recently highlighted the complexities of high asset divorce by reporting on the divorce of Nancy Hua and Dennis Tsung, an affluent South Florida couple. As of August 2017, the details of how to divide the couple’s assets have yet to be completely worked out. The rulings issued so far in the divorce and in Nancy Hua’s appeal reveal many interesting things about the way Florida courts view property division between divorced spouses.

Wealth Plus Time Does Not Always Equal Permanent Alimony

Nancy and Dennis were married for almost 18 years. In the original divorce case, Nancy requested permanent alimony of $20,000 per month. For most of the marriage she had been a stay-at-home parent with no income. The spousal support award she received was for rehabilitative alimony; Dennis was to pay her $2,500 per month for two years. He was also to pay $12,000 toward her educational expenses; the plan was for her to attend nursing school and then begin working. The court estimated that she would be able to earn an annual income of $50,000 working full time as a nurse. The reason for the court’s decision to award rehabilitative alimony is that Nancy Hua had plenty of potential for gainful employment. She was in her early forties and in good health, and her children were old enough not to require full time childcare. Continue reading