December 16, 2005
Case Law Development: Alimony in Very Long Term Marriage
The Florida Court of Appeals reversed a permanent periodic maintenance award in favor of wife in a 47 year marriage. Both husband and wife were on fixed incomes, though the husband's income was four times that of the wife. Husband had paid $1000 a month temporary alimony during the couple's separation. The trial court concluded that wife had not proven that she needed more or that husband could pay more.
The court of appeals reversed and remanded for additional findings on these issues. The court noted that the couple's standard of living during the marriage was "far from frugal." While recognizing that maintaining the same standard of living after divorce is impossible, the appellate court noted that the trial court should have explained a decision that left Wife with "less than the husband to cover her expenses in this long, long-term marriage." The dissent would have given greater deference to the trial court's finding that wife had failed to prove that husband could pay more, noting that "Any additional obligation that the former husband must incur would require him to dip further into his savings or deplete his capital assets at an increased pace. This court has been loath to require such actions."
Sussman v. Sussman, 2005 Fla App LEXIS 19611 (Dec. 7, 2005)
Opinion on the web at http://www.4dca.org/Dec2005/12-07-05/4D04-3804.op.pdf (last visited December 15, 2005 bgf)