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When You and Your Ex-Spouse Disagree About Whether You Are Healthy Enough to Work


Most alimony arrangements are temporary; Florida courts only entertain the possibility of permanent alimony when couples divorce after more than 17 years of marriage.  Even then, it is not a done deal that the court will award permanent alimony.  Even when the court does award permanent alimony, the amount is usually based on the recipient spouse’s imputed income, that is, the amount that the court anticipates that she can make if she returns to the workforce.  Most ex-spouses who receive enough permanent alimony that they can cover their expenses without going back to work at all are of retirement age or else have disabilities that make it impossible for them to work.  Just who decides what “unable to work” means, though?  Some couples end up in court battles over whether one of them is minimizing the other’s pain or whether one of them is faking an illness, and it is as ugly as it sounds.  If imputed income is an issue in your divorce, a South Florida alimony lawyer can help ensure that the amount the court imputes to you or your ex-spouse is fair.

Details of the Fichtel Case

Elyse and Marc Fichtel divorced in 2012 after 19 years of marriage.  Elyse worked as a teacher until 2004 and then left the workforce.  While out of the workforce, Elyse began to suffer from health problems that made it impossible to go back to teaching.  At the time of the parties’ divorce, Marc’s annual income was about $200,000.  The court awarded Elyse alimony of $4,200 per month for fifteen years, nearly twice as long as she had been out of the workforce during her marriage to Marc.  It arrived at that amount based on testimony by a vocational counselor summoned by Marc that Elyse could work full time at a non-teaching job and earn $10 to $15 per hour.

Elyse appealed the decision and requested permanent alimony.  She summoned a vocational counselor who testified that, because of her health issues and her childcare responsibilities, she was not able to work at all.  (The appeal did not contain any details about the nature of her health problems, the kind of work Marc’s vocational counselor recommended for her, or the age of the children at the time of the divorce.)  The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.  In an era where dual income couples are the rule rather than the exception, the family courts usually assume that stay-at-home mothers will return to the workforce after divorce and do not require men to continue to maintain their former wives as homemakers after a divorce.

Let Us Help You Today

Equitable distribution, including alimony when applicable, means that both spouses keep the same standard of living after the divorce that they had before the marriage.  Imputed income is, by nature, imaginary, and it takes a skilled lawyer to argue whether or not the amount of income imputed is realistic.  Contact the Boca Raton divorce attorneys at Schwartz | White for a consultation.


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