Articles Posted in Spousal Support / Alimony Awards and Modification

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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.

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Life is full of many twists and turns, many of which can have financial consequences. When you experience a turn in your life that reduces your income, and you are under an existing court order to pay your ex-spouse alimony, that downturn in your income may result in an alimony payment that is too large. In some circumstances, you may be entitled to obtain a court order that lowers your alimony payments (or even ends them altogether). There is, however, a specific way that you must go about seeking this modification, so it is definitely worthwhile to have knowledgeable South Florida counsel on your side.

R.B. was a man in such a position of change. In 2015, he was close to retirement. 10 years earlier, he and his wife, B.B., had divorced. In the couple’s 2005 marital settlement agreement, the husband agreed to pay the wife $5,500 per month in permanent alimony. The agreement said nothing about either’s spouse’s future retirement.

R.B. sought a reduction of his alimony. The trial court ruled in favor of B.B. The court of appeal, however, concluded that the trial court had made an “error of law.” The law allows courts to consider “a reasonable retirement as part of the total circumstances in determining if sufficient changed circumstances exist to warrant a modification of alimony.” A failure by a couple’s original divorce judgment or marital settlement agreement to address the parties’ future retirements does not change a trial judge’s ability to consider retirement in a request for reduction of alimony.

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Prenuptial agreements can be a very important part of the process for some couples planning to wed. The agreements can allow both partners to reach an agreement at a time when their views are not colored by the pain and stress of a marriage’s recent or impending demise. One of the key things in ensuring that your prenuptial agreement is successful is ensuring that it is written carefully, unambiguously, and with an appropriate level of detail. This is important because the courts will seek to enforce your agreement as it is written. For advice and representation regarding the creation or enforcement of your prenuptial agreement, contact an experienced South Florida divorce attorney.

Michel and Sherrone were a couple who had a prenuptial agreement that was the crux of their family law litigation. The couple’s agreement stated that neither spouse would, in the event of divorce, receive any type of spousal support from the other. However, the agreement did state that the husband or one of his companies would pay the wife a salary of $6,000 per month for 24 months.

Ultimately, the marriage did end in divorce. The trial judge in the couple’s divorce case concluded that the prenuptial agreement was valid and enforceable. The court acknowledged that the agreement made it clear that the spouses were renouncing their right to collect alimony. However, the court went on to rule that the salary payments owed to the wife would be in the form of durational alimony.

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There is often much that anyone can learn from the rulings courts make. A recent decision handed down by a Florida appeals court in Miami provides two very important reminders for anyone going through the divorce process.. First and foremost, it is always a good idea to ensure that you have the representation of a knowledgeable Florida family law attorney for any divorce-related legal matter. That is especially true if there is a potential language barrier issue. Florida and the Florida courts remain English-dominant, and you want to ensure that you do not lose out on important rights or legal options because of a barrier due to English being something other than your first language.

The spouses involved in the case, Gerardo and Aura, began divorce proceedings in 2016. At the time, the couple had been married for 19 years. Each spouse decided to navigate the legal system without the representation of an attorney. The husband obtained the necessary paperwork, and the couple, with the help of a private notary, filled out the forms. The forms, along with a marital settlement agreement, stated that neither spouse would receive alimony. According to the notary, the wife did not speak English well, and she (the notary) translated much of the paperwork’s English into Spanish to aid understanding.

At the court clerk’s office, the wife allegedly objected to the “no alimony” provision, and the clerk made a note of it. Unfortunately for the wife, the paperwork that said “no alimony” got filed, and the document that supposedly showed her objection did not.

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In many ways, the lifestyles of celebrities may seem very different from those not in the public eye. However, there can be a lot that we can all learn from things like the divorce and family law cases of celebrities. For instance, the ongoing alimony dispute between singing superstar Mary J. Blige and her ex-husband has continued taking place in the courts. Although Blige’s case is happening in California, there are still many important reminders available for people in Florida who are going through, or may be facing, litigation over alimony. If you are in, or anticipate being in, an alimony dispute, make sure that you and your interests are protected by retaining an experienced Florida spousal support attorney.

In recent months, Blige has been making news for reasons other than her music. A recent interview with Vulture included references to her financial stresses of recent years. Variety reported on one of those financial stressors:  a New Jersey mansion she has for sale, currently priced at more than $5 million less than she paid for it.

Another issue for the singer has been litigation surrounding her divorce. Blige and her husband, Martin “Kendu” Isaacs, filed for divorce in 2016. As part of that process, Isaacs requested alimony. He asked the court to award him a six-figure monthly alimony amount, but the Los Angeles judge handling the case awarded him $30,000 per month, according to a TMZ report. Recently, Isaacs returned to court, asking the judge to increase Blige’s monthly alimony obligation to $65,000. Isaacs’s argument contended that many of the singer’s statements to the press cast him in such a negative light that he was unable to find new work with other artists, according to TheBlast.com. This, in addition to the success of two “divorce” songs on Blige’s new album, allegedly meant that he had the need for more alimony and that she had the ability to pay.