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If You Lived Beyond Your Means When You Were Married, How Does the Court Determine Alimony?


Some people blame the “adultolescents” who live beyond their means while depending on their parents financially, and some blame the baby boomers who collected the benefits of their cushy jobs while letting the young generation scramble for paying gigs, but whatever the reason, most parents of minor children are in debt.  When couples divorce, the court divides their debts as well as their assets and bases alimony decisions on each spouse’s projected post-divorce financial situation.  Before awarding alimony, the court determines whether the recipient spouse has any other sources of support.  In an age when many people in their thirties still receive financial support from their parents, the court might count monetary gifts from one spouse’s parents as marital or non-marital property, depending on the circumstances.  If your spouse’s failure to launch is a complicating factor in your divorce, a South Florida divorce lawyer can help you sort out the details of division of property.

Is Aversion to Work a Good Enough Reason to Receive Permanent Alimony

Todd and Tracey Jaffy were married for nine years and had three children together.  The couple enjoyed a high standard of living, but they lived beyond their means, with substantial financial support coming from Tracey’s parents.  At the time of their divorce trial, Tracey was 34 years old.  Contrary to all expectations, the trial court awarded her permanent alimony; this is surprising for several reasons:

  • Most judges only consider permanent alimony if the couple were married for more than 17 years, but Tracey and Todd were married for less than 10 years.
  • Most recipients of permanent alimony are over 60, but Tracey was only 34.
  • Permanent alimony is appropriate when the recipient is unable to work because of illness or has so few professional qualifications that she can only earn a modest income and will still need additional support from her ex-spouse even if she gets a job. Tracey was healthy and had a bachelor’s degree.

The expected type of alimony in this case would be rehabilitative alimony, which lasts several years while the recipient completes her education and builds up work experience until, by the court’s estimation, she no longer needs alimony.  The trial court determined that awarding Tracey rehabilitative alimony would be counterproductive because she was so averse to work.  The appeals court ruled, and the Florida Supreme Court affirmed, that an award of permanent alimony should be based on a spouse’s legitimate financial need, not simply her strong desire to be a homemaker.  In other words, even though Tracey did not want to support herself through employment, she was able to, and ability is what should determine the alimony award.

Let Us Help You Today

Divorce courts hold both parents accountable for their responsibility to support their children financially.  If your spouse refused to work during the marriage, it doesn’t mean that they can continue to mooch off of you for decades after the divorce.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce lawyers at Schwartz | White for more information.




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