Many marriages end up in divorce in today’s day and age. Divorce can be a factor of many things, from simply growing tired of each other after a substantial amount of time together to the divorce of two young adults who married because they thought they were in love, or simply married too young.
Getting a divorce is relatively simple, as far as the law goes. A spouse cannot deny the other a divorce. Florida is also a “no-fault” state. In a no-fault state, the petitioner only needs to allege irreconcilable differences.
Divorce can be very simple if there are no children and no major assets and liabilities to divide. Many couples can file for divorce on their own, or hire a paralegal to help them complete the paperwork that needs to be filed.
Throw children or substantial property, assets, liabilities, and retirement accounts into the mix along with a long-term marriage (generally defined as over ten years), and the opinions of what each spouse thinks they are entitled to escalate. It is not so simple as to divide everything in half. There are many situations where one spouse may think he or she is entitled to more of the assets and / or less debt, particularly if there are children involved.
While there are guidelines to deal with many of these issues, especially child support, there are no tried and true guidelines in place for alimony awards. The courts in Florida use the following factors in deciding alimony (2006 Florida Statutes 61.08):
The standard of living established during the marriage
The duration of the marriage
The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party
The financial resources of each party, the non marital and marital assets and liabilities distributed to each
When applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment
The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party
All sources of income available to each party
Any of these “guidelines” are at the discretion of the court and are determined by the court’s opinion of what each should mean. What defines a long-term marriage? It seems the courts cannot decide what a long-term marriage is.
The Second District held that 14 years is a long-term marriage, but in Knoff (Knoff v. Knoff, 751 So. 2d 167 (Fla. 2d D.C.A. 2000)), the court was determined that it was an abuse of discretion to fail to award permanent alimony after a thirteen and a half year marriage. Based on Cardillo (Cardillo v. Cardillo, 707 So. 2d 350 (Fla. 2d D.C.A. 1998)), the court determines a long-term marriage to be 14 years, but cautions that the length of time of the marriage was not the only determining factor in alimony.
In the Fifth District, the court was reluctant to determine a 15 year marriage as long-term (Young v. Young, 677 So. 2d 1301 (Fla. 5th D.C.A. 1996)) and determined it was in a gray area. Several districts consider a 17 year marriage as long term. This is only one of the myriad of decisions a court has in awarding alimony.
In today’s society, most households are two-income households. The issues this article addresses pertain to two-income households where both parties have comparable education and / or job experience in lieu of education. Often, the court awards alimony to the wife as an equalization factor. This is purportedly assuming that the would-be paying spouse has an ability to pay, and the would-be receiving spouse has a need.
If the would-be receiving spouse has worked or is working, there should be no “need” for the would-be receiving spouse, as he or she should be able to procure an income comparable to the would-be paying spouse.
When children leave their parents’ home, are parents obligated to pay their children alimony? Why, then, should a former spouse be obligated to support an adult that is perfectly capable of working and creating the same income as the paying spouse?
Alimony is based on the common law right of a wife to be supported by her husband. In 1979, the Supreme Court removed its limitations to husbands to account for cases in which the wife is wealthier. In today’s double income society, why should either spouse support the other? Alimony was designed to support a spouse that otherwise did not work, and stayed in the home to rear the children.
Most of today’s alimony recipients work outside the home, and have a college education, and can support his or her self.