Florida has long recognized a divorced party’s right to receive alimony following a divorce. Typically, the award is made to the former wife, but, in some circumstances, the former husband may be the recipient.
Section 61.08, Florida Statures, provides that the alimony may be “rehabilitative or permanent in nature”; the former primarily an award for a limited period of time to allow the divorced person to obtain education or training or, perhaps, counseling to the end that he or she can be self-supporting and no longer in need of alimony.
Permanent alimony, on the other hand, is usually awarded and is payable until the former wife re-marries or dies. (Parenthetically, alimony can be awarded continued after the person having the obligation dies; it can be made an obligation of his or her estate!) Typically, an award of permanent alimony is made when the marriage was of long duration and the former spouse is unlikely to be self-sufficient in the near or distant future. For example, a former wife who has been a homemaker, without career, over a twenty- or thirty-year marriage while the husband pursued education and career.
The statute provides for a number of criteria to determine the amount and duration of alimony, including the respective needs and income of the parties and the standard of living to which the ex-spouse has become accustomed.
Often, a divorced woman, recipient of permanent alimony, will have a man move in with her, without marriage, possibly to ensure the continuation of alimony or, equally likely, continued social security or pension benefits which might end upon remarriage.
In 2004, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals wrote in Reno v Reno that “cohabitation may justify the elimination of alimony depending on how the new living situation has impacted the alimony recipient’s financial condition and the continued need for alimony.”
Meanwhile, the state Legislature has amended the statute to provide, at Section 61.14(1)(b)(1) that a court may reduce or terminate alimony if there is a finding that, after the divorce, the wife has entered into a “supportive relationship” with a new man. The first of the criteria to be assessed by the Court is whether there is a supportive relationship between an
The statute goes on to state matters to be considered by the Court, namely, the parties’ conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship, including, the period of time that the recipient has resided with the other person, the extent to which persons have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence, even the extent to which the alimony recipient or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.
In Raul Zeballos v Albab Zeballos, decided in March,. 2007, the Fourth District Court had before it a case where the former Mrs. Zeballos was awarded permanent alimony, after the children had emancipated, of $1,000.00 per month. Raul moved for a reduction or termination of alimony on the grounds that his former wife was living with a Mr. Camp and had been for five years. The former wife had no source of income other than the alimony, was not employed, and, it was apparent that Mr. Camp was paying some or all of their bills. The trial court reduced the alimony to $350.00 per month; the Appellate Court further reduced the alimony to $1.00 per month.
The Court quoted the legislative intent: relationships do exist that provide economic support equivalent to a marriage and that it would be unfair to allow the ex-wife to take advantage.
The moral of this story is that, if you are a recipient of alimony, do not allow a new partner to support you. If you are paying alimony, watch carefully to see if your ex-spouse is “shacking up” with a new partner who is paying the bills.
Either of these circumstances can have a major impact on finances!