In a Florida divorce, the first question to ask is whether alimony will be awarded at all? This is determined through he need and ability test which I outlined in a previous article.
If a party is determined to have “needs” which he or she cannot satisfy with their own income and the other party then the needs represent a ceiling which alimony payments will not exceed. “Absent special circumstances…, an alimony award shall not exceed a spouse’s need.” Garcia v. Garcia, 25 So. 3d 687.
At the same time, no alimony award shall exceed the payor’s ability to pay. Perez v. Perez, 11 So. 3d 470.
So, Florida case law has established both a floor (payor’s ability to pay) and a ceiling (alimony recipient’s financial needs to maintain the lifestyle as it was during the marriage)
The Florida statutes do not provide further guidance except to state that the amount of alimony is completely within the discretion of the trial court.
So, there are extremely loose guidelines in determining a Florida alimony award. The best we can do is try to approximate the logic that the average court will employ in determining an exact amount for an alimony award. I try to do that below.
Need = [reasonable expenses – (actual income + imputed income)
Ability = [(actual income + imputed income) – reasonable expenses)
Alimony = The smaller of either the Need or the Ability in the above two calculations
Don’t expect a judge to pull out a piece of paper and start calculating maintenance based on this formula. This is just the logical conclusion of one Florida lawyer after reading the case law. In my experience, judge’s enjoy recommending awards of round numbers to encourage settlement. “$2,000 a month sounds about right”
Beyond the parties’ expenses and incomes there may be other factors that a court decides to consider.
The parties’ may have significant assets which dwarf the parties’ incomes and may negate the need for alimony. These assets should only considered a substitute for alimony if the income from these assets meets the needs of the party. The party is not required to dip into the assets to meet their needs. “Requiring a wife to deplete her capital assets in order to maintain her standard of living is wrong as a matter of law” Kelly v. Kelly, 925 So. 2d 364 (Fla. 5th DCA 2006).
It seems likely to presume that the courts would resolve the matter by simply equalizing the two parties’ incomes. For example, if husband earns $ 100,000 a year and wife earns $ 50,000 a year then an alimony award of $ 25,000 from husband to wife would equalize their incomes. Equalizing the parties’ incomes is not the goal of alimony. Doganiero v. Doganiero, 106 So. 3d 75 (Fla. 2d DCA 2013). But, if the parties’ incomes to get equalized via alimony, that does not mean that the award was wrong in itself.
In conclusion, alimony in Florida is so unpredictable that a settlement between the parties regarding alimony is highly encouraged in lieu of letting the court decide. As the old saying goes, “The devil you know is better than the devil you don’t”
Contact my Naples, Florida law office to schedule a free consultation to discuss the possibility of alimony in your pending divorce.