In many divorce cases, two of the key items that must be resolved are child support and alimony. In Florida, some types of alimony, like permanent alimony and durational alimony, are awarded with the expectation that the supporting spouse will be making payments to the recipient spouse for a considerable period of time. So what happens if the supporting spouse dies shortly after the award is ordered by the court? If that happens, it could mean that the recipient spouse receives very little alimony. To avoid that outcome, Florida law empowers judges to order supporting spouses to obtain life insurance to secure the alimony award. Judges can issue these orders only under special circumstances, however. To find out if your case’s circumstances are “special” and learn more about your options regarding alimony, you should contact a knowledgeable South Florida alimony attorney.Florida courts have clearly outlined what the “special circumstances” are that can serve as triggers for an order demanding life insurance as security for an alimony award. They include situations in which a spouse would potentially be “left in dire financial straits” if her supporting spouse died prematurely “due to age, ill health, and/or lack of employment skills.” These circumstances also include the supporting spouse’s failing health, minor children living at home, a recipient spouse who has limited earning ability, a supporting spouse who is behind on alimony payments, or cases in which the supporting spouse agreed to purchase a life insurance policy to secure the alimony award.
In one recent case, the trial court ordered the husband to purchase a $1 million life insurance policy to secure his alimony obligation. The husband appealed that decision, arguing that none of the law’s list of special circumstances applied to his situation. The husband had agreed to obtain life insurance to secure his child support obligation, but he had never made any similar agreement with regard to his alimony.
The judge’s order regarding life insurance did not survive an appeal because there wasn’t enough evidence of the required special circumstances. There was no finding by the trial judge that the wife would be left in “dire financial straits.” Additionally, the wife was fairly young, had a college degree, and also had a good job. The minor child at home with the wife would turn 18 in less than 2 years, and the husband was not behind in his alimony payments. These facts indicated that none of the special circumstances existed.