Articles Posted in Alimony

As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I have encountered my share of clients that are not too fond of the idea of paying alimony to a former spouse.  I suppose I understand.  Alimony considerations are controlled by Florida Statute 61.08, but in general will be based on one person’s need versus the other person’s ability to pay.   For many people, it’s not the money its self, but rather the idea of being forced to provide support that they would rather not provide after the relationship has ended.  Simply put, people are angry and are driven by emotions surrounding divorces, those emotions often conflict with what the court has ordered regarding support payments.  People will search for ways to protest as much as possible without running the risk of being held in contempt for not following a judge’s order.

151215_Allimony ChecksTake a look at the photo to the left. It shows a man and woman who were recently married.  Apparently, the photos are printed on checks that the man used to pay alimony to his ex-wife. Not all divorced couples hate each other, but it is clear to see that these checks were designed to take shots at the ex-wife every time she receives an alimony payment.  It makes for a good laugh on social media, but I wouldn’t recommend it under most circumstances.  As long as alimony is due, the court will have jurisdiction to enforce the support obligation. As long as the court retains jurisdiction, there are always things that the ex can do to complicate the former husband’s life.  Under Florida law, there is nothing wrong with what the husband has done here.   Although there are many many reasons not to antagonize and poke at an ex-wife, the law will allow this type of behavior.  Unless there is a provision in the divorce decree that can be used to attack these spiteful checks, the checks will be allowed.

My advice as a Jacksonville divorce lawyer is for the ex-husband not to poke the bear. For the ex-wife, it would be to cash the checks and enjoy the money. The ex-wife, however, under Florida law has the option to petition the court and ask that the payments go through the depository, rather than directly to her. It adds a middleman to the deal, but shuts down the ex-husband’s shenanigans.  At the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC, our experienced divorce lawyers can help guide you through the divorce process and help protect your rights.  We also offer pretty awesome advice on what not to do in divorce case.  Call today for a free initial consultation.

Trusts have long been a tool used in asset protection and estate planning to protect property and income.  But  what if a person seeks to use a trust  as a shield to protect a trust beneficiary from making support payments in family law cases?  The answer is not necessarily straight forward, but depends on the circumstances and the terms of the trust.  However, Florida trust law makes it possible for a trust to be used to provide support to a trust beneficiary’s dependents.  This is  limited to child support or spousal support and is only considered when there are no other alternatives to receiving the support that is sought.  The person seeking to attach a trust’s distributions to a beneficiary must demonstrate to the court that certain factors are present that justify going after the trust.  A trust’s spendthrift provision will not defeat a garnishment for support of a dependent.

equalRecently, the 2nd District Court of Appeals, in Berlinger v. Casselberry, upheld a trial court’s order issuing a continuing writ of garnishment against any future disbursements from a trust for the ex-husband’s benefit after the ex-wife filed a motion for contempt and requested a writ of garnishment.  In this case, the ex-husband was ordered to pay a substantial amount of alimony per month.  The ex-husband stopped making the alimony payments, but lived a lavish lifestyle with his new wife.  The couple lived off a trust set up for the benefit of the ex-husband, who had attempted to hide the trust.  After the ex-wife discovered the trust, she requested the writ of garnishment, which the court granted.

The State of Florida holds spendthrift provisions in high regard and will respect them, generally.  However, the State’s policy as it relates to a person’s obligation to support his or her dependents is of higher interest to the State of Florida.  For more information on trusts or family law issues, contact the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PPLC.  Initial consultations are free.

Most people have had buyer’s remorse from time-to-time. The moment a person realizes he or she has made a bad deal can be very disappointing. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, I can tell you that settlement agreements in divorce cases can leave a person feeling the same way. Marital settlement agreements can be used to resolve any issue in a divorce case. Some subjects, like custody or time-sharing, may have to be approved by the court before being made a part of the final divorce decree. Child support, for example, that is normally based on guidelines can be more than what the law requires, if both parties have agreed to it.  A father that has agreed to pay $200 additional in child support per month will typically be stuck with the terms of the agreement he signed.  divorce_pic

Florida courts have long held that a signed settlement agreement in divorce cases will bind both parties.   This is so, because courts prefer people to work the cases out themselves, rather than rely on the court to solve problems through litigation. Jacksonville divorce lawyers would all hope that their clients won’t enter into agreements without the divorce lawyer having an opportunity to review and advise the client about the agreement, but divorce lawyers are sometimes faced with having to search for ways to get a client out of a settlement agreement the lawyer was not involved in.   Unless certain circumstances exist, a person is bound by a signed settlement agreement in divorce cases. Things that can make a settlement agreement unenforceable include fraud, duress, misrepresentation, and overreaching.

For example, a situation where a husband threatened to turn his wife and her business partners in to the IRS unless she signed the marital settlement agreement was found to be duress, and the agreement was set aside. Where one party has lied about what assets are available, courts are likely to invalidate those agreements, as well. Experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyers at the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC can help you maneuver through the issues in your divorce case. Free consultations are available. Call us today at (904) 685-1200.

498955_holding_moneyAlimony Reduction and Termination: Alimony is often one of the most contested issues in divorce cases.  For many people, the idea of paying money to financially support an ex-spouse is a disgusting idea.  When the love and reverence turns to hate and disdain, making alimony payments to the ex-spouse is painful.  The pain is only magnified by a judge’s ruling that the payments are to be permanent.  An award of permanent alimony normally stays in place until the re-marriage of the recipient or the death of one of the parties.  However, under some circumstances, modification or termination of permanent alimony payments can be accomplished.

Florida Statute 61.14 authorizes the circuit court to reconsider alimony when the parties’ circumstances or financial ability change.  Courts interpret this by requiring three things: (1) a substantial change in circumstances; (2) the change was not anticipated at the time of the final judgment; and (3) the change is sufficient, material, permanent, and involuntary.  Applying this test, alimony can be either decreased or increased.

Florida courts have deemed that a former wife’s increased living expenses related to her condominium were enough to justify an increase in alimony.  It has also been determined that a former husband who voluntarily retires after reaching retirement age and has less income as a result should have that fact considered when the former husband asks for a reduction in alimony payments.  For more information, or for a free initial consultation regarding the specific facts in your case, call the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC at (904) 685-1200.  Our experienced Jacksonville alimony lawyers and divorce lawyers can help you or a loved one work toward the best outcome in your case.

A client walked into Apple six months ago, trying to get his alimony modified. He was not sure about hiring an attorney because he felt his previous attorney was a tiger in his office but a wallflower in Court. We finally asked us him to let us try to solve his family law problem and made a commitment to treat him like our most important client. His reluctance gave way to confidence in our firm and he hired us.

The case was a garden-variety modification of alimony, one of the most heavily litigated types of family law cases. The standard for a modification of alimony is completely at the discretion of the court. The court does not have an obligation to modify; it just has the option…that is if your attorney proves the three elements. To receive a modification of alimony the petitioner, the person asking for the modification in layman’s terms must demonstrate that three things have happened since the original divorce:

• The party asking for a modification must demonstrate a material change in circumstances. That means things have drastically changed for one party for the better or the worse. Sickness or long-term loss of employment can be examples of such material changes.

From the Family Law Section of the Florida Bar:

As the start of the 2013 legislative session approaches, one of the items for debate among advocates will be Florida’s alimony statutes. Florida currently enjoys some of the most progressive alimony laws in the nation and the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar has worked closely with members of the legislature to pass good public policy that is fair and equitable to all parties. As a result of the efforts of the Section through changes made to the alimony statutes in 2010 and 2011, fewer cases are litigated and more are settled.

“The Family Law Section believes any new legislation should set a reasonable approach toward improvements,” said Carin M. Porras, chair of the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar. “In the upcoming legislative session, we will be working to educate policy makers and the general public to clarify misconceptions about Florida’s alimony statutes; misconceptions such as permanent alimony payors are prohibited from retiring or the income of a second husband or wife creates a basis for an upward modification of alimony.”

Alimony can be one of the most contentious issues in a Florida divorce. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is designed to provide the lower-income spouse with money for living expenses over and above the money provided by child support. Spousal support differs from child support in that child support is a simple mathematical calculation using guidelines published by the state, where as spousal support is discretionary and requires balancing multiple factors.

Though there is certainly no rule saying so, it is generally seen as rare that spousal support is awarded in marriages that lasted only a few years. It is also rare to see it awarded in cases where the incomes of the parties are close to equal. Alimony is typically reserved for situations where one spouse has been economically dependent on the other for most of a lengthy marriage. Again though, this is not a hard and fast rule and exceptions do exist, especially when one party’s bad behavior was responsible for the dissolution of the marriage.

There is a possibility of rehabilitative alimony for shorter marriages. Rehabilitative support is a means that some courts use when one of the spouses needs some time to transition back into the job market. The court can order modest alimony for a set period of time to allow the other spouse to finish school or get back to work and get on his or her feet.

According to new data the trend known as “grey divorce” appears to be picking up steam. The numbers of senior divorces in the country continues to grow and with the baby boomers aging the amount will likely rise even faster.

Susan L. Brown and I-Fen Lin at Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family & Marriage Research Center conducted research that indicated the divorce rate among those over 50 years old had doubled between 1990 and 2009. This shocking figure was true even for those over the age of 65, proving that it is not a phenomenon limited to divorce-prone boomers.

These same researches are predicting that the trend will only continue to escalate. The reason is that those who have already been through one marriage and are now remarried are more than 2.5 times more likely to divorce again than those who are still on their first marriage.

Every person in the state of Florida, who is either thinking about getting married, engaged, or already married is concerned about the battle over the state’s alimony laws. WJHG.com recently reported about a man, who wished to remain anonymous, that was required to continue to pay his ex-wife $2000 in alimony payment even though he had been injured in an accident and could not even pay his medical bills. Despite his obvious change in financial circumstances, he is still required by law to meet his alimony obligations because Florida is one of the few states in the nation that allows for permanent alimony.

Because of these laws, the Florida Alimony Reform Group has surfaced and has made the reformation of Florida’s alimony laws its primary purpose. Their website states their legislative and political goals. One of the goals is to limit the amount of discretion that judges have in awarding alimony in divorce cases. The group believes that antiquated attitudes regarding gender roles and stereotypes have influenced the way that Florida adjudicates alimony claims. The group expresses its concerns in the following way: “While divorces in Florida are technically ‘no-fault,’ they reflect attitudes and realities from America in the 1950s, when the divorcing husband was the sole breadwinner and always considered ‘the bad guy’ in divorce, while the wife was considered ‘the helpless victim.’ These antiquated stereotypes still drive much of what happens in the state’s family courts. Because of these laws and attitudes, it is common for healthy, employed women in their 30s and 40s to receive permanent alimony.”

This year, the Florida Alimony Reform Group suffered a major setback when it proposed legislation that would drastically reform the state’s alimony provisions, but the bill failed to pass the Senate. Now the group must wait for at least one year before it hopes to see any changes in the alimony laws. The family law section of the Florida Bar is prepared to fight to support the law as it is now.

When deciding whether to grant alimony in a divorce case, courts in Jacksonville, Florida consider many factors, including the length of the marriage, the spouses’ employment prospects, the age of each party, their standard of living, their marital contributions, their available income and assets, and the fairness of the situation.

Generally, the shorter you’ve been married, the less likely you will be awarded alimony. Similarly, age is important. If one of the spouses is about to retire, alimony might be more likely.

Jacksonville, Florida courts also consider marital contributions. You might complain that your spouse watched TV all day for twelve years while you worked fifty hours a week. You might think this means your spouse should not be entitled to alimony; however, the court will likely not consider this in granting alimony. Similarly, if your spouse ran up huge credit card debt, he or she may still be entitled to alimony. The court might look more favorably to you, however, if those debts were ran up without your knowledge.

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