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How Much Alimony Will I Have to Pay When I Divorce?
By Orlando Prenuptial Agreements Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias
Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011
The Unpleasant Nature of Paying Alimony
Few prospects in life are as unpleasant as sending a large monthly check to your ex-spouse for the rest of your days. Since I started my practicing family law, I have yet to represent a divorce client that calmly accepted this fate. No client has ever told me “I understand that I have to pay alimony to my ex.” Child support, yes, alimony, no.
The Discretion of the Judges in Setting Alimony Payments
Unfortunately, the Florida Statutes do nothing to ease the anxiety of potential alimony payers. Unlike with child support, where there are legal guidelines, there are no “alimony guidelines”. No formula exists that establishes a precise alimony obligation. Rather, family law judges exercise considerable discretion in determining whether a divorce warrants alimony, and if so, the form and size of the payment. It is not surprising that the issue that drives the most divorce litigants from mediation to trial is alimony.
Safeguards Against Excessive Alimony
With that said, there are safeguards in place that protect a spouse from excessive alimony that can “taken one the cleaners”. Here are three of them that every potential alimony payer should keep in mind:
A Long-Term Marriage Does Not Necessarily Lead to Permanent Alimony, or Any Alimony
While it is true that a long-term marriage in Florida (17 years or longer) creates a presumption in favor of permanent alimony, there is no automatic entitlement to it. For example, spouses who have served as the primary or exclusive breadwinners during the marriage, and become disabled, or loses a job involuntarily, may not even be ordered to pay any alimony by a judge.
The award of alimony is rooted in three considerations: (a) the length of the marriage, (b) the present ability of the payer to pay it and (c) the present need of the payee to receive it. What you earned in the past, while relevant, will not override your involuntarily reduced earning capacity in the present.
How Much the Alimony Recipient Needs Also Matters
Contrary to popular belief, the goal of alimony is not to equalize the parties’ incomes or even to replicate the lifestyle that the spouses enjoyed during the marriage. Numerous appellate opinions confirm this. Rather, alimony is a means of granting both parties a degree of post-divorce economic security.
When family law judges evaluate alimony claims, they must consider what the payee’s present expenses are. For example, when alimony recipients keep their marital home with no mortgage loan payments to make, this strongly mitigates against having an entitlement to alimony. If they receive all or most of a sizable retirement account, they will have a tough time convincing a judge that they also needs a monthly alimony payment.
When I explain to my divorce clients that allowing their spouses to receive greater than half of the marital assets can defeat an alimony claim, they usually breathe a sigh of relief. Plus, while it may cause temporary pain to sacrifice an asset, spouses will not have to face the pressure of paying ex-spouses every month in order to avoid a contempt of court finding.
Alimony Cannot Impoverish the Payer
Even if a monthly alimony payment is unavoidable, payers should keep in mind that judges do not have unlimited discretion in fixing an amount. Appellate courts have repeatedly ruled that an alimony award cannot impoverish the payer. Again, while no fixed guidelines exist, judges rarely order an alimony payment that exceeds a third of the payer’s net monthly earnings. I have found that 20%-30% of one’s net monthly income is the most common rage for monthly alimony.
How AAA Family Law Can Help
If you have any questions about alimony, I encourage you to call AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule an initial phone or office consultation with me. There, I will (a) listen to your description of your situation and ask you what your objectives are for a divorce settlement, (b) outline an action plan to achieve your legal objectives and (c) quote you a fixed attorney retainer feed, not an hourly rate whose final total in not known.
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283 Cranes Roost Blvd., Suite 111
Altamonte Springs, Florida 32701
AAA Family Law is located in Altamonte Springs and serves clients throughout the Orlando Metro Area including, but not limited to, the following cities and unincorporated areas, by county: Orange County: Apopka, Bay Lake, Maitland, Ocoee, Orlando, Union Park, Winter Garden, and Winter Park; Seminole County: Altamonte Springs, Casselberry, Lake Mary, Longwood, Oviedo, Sanford, and Winter Springs; Volusia County: Daytona Beach, DeBary, DeLand, Deltona, and Orange City; Lake County: Clermont, Leesburg, and Mount Dora; Osceola County: Buena Ventura Lakes, Celebration, and Kissimmee; Orange, Lake, Osceola, and Polk Counties: Four Corners; Orange and Seminole Counties: Goldenrod.