Tag: alimony adultery

Alimony Reform, Marriage Length, and Permanent Alimony

Does the length of your marriage matter for alimony anymore? Some people are asking that after a recent decision by a Florida appeals court re-wrote the rules for measuring what a long-term marriage is. The Regular Session of the Florida legislature convened in January, and alimony reform is a hot topic in Tallahassee.

Trouble in Tallahassee

The Florida House of Representatives is currently convening in Tallahassee to debate House Bill 843 on Dissolution of Marriage. The bill makes a few changes to the divorce statutes, especially alimony.

The bill also redefines the amount and duration for bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, and durational alimony, prohibits ordering a spouse who retired prior to a divorce to pay any alimony, except temporary alimony, unless the court determines otherwise and allows payors to modify alimony up to 12 months before his or her anticipated retirement.

The bill removes presumptions about the length of a short, moderate, or long-term marriage, eliminating permanent alimony (but allowing it if agreed to), prioritizing bridge-the-gap alimony, followed by rehabilitative alimony, before any other form.

Meanwhile, across town in Tallahassee, a recent appeals case from the First District Court of Appeal may throw fuel on the fire. After 16 years and 11 months of marriage, a husband asked for dissolution of the marriage.

The judge granted permanent alimony to the wife. The husband appealed saying the trial court should not have awarded permanent alimony, and should instead have given her durational alimony.

Why? The husband argued they were only married 16 years and 11 months — that’s just one-month shy of the statutory presumption of a “long-term” marriage under Florida statutes. But the trial court treated his marriage as if it were a long-term marriage of 17-years or more – even though it clearly was less.

Florida and the Length of Marriage

In Florida, the duration of a marriage always played a very important role in divorce cases. I’ve written about the types of alimony awards available in Florida before. For instance, Florida Statutes dealing with alimony specifically limit the type of alimony awards based on the duration of the marriage.

For determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage less than 7-years, a moderate-term marriage is greater than 7-years but less than 17-years, and long-term marriage is 17-years or greater.

Florida defines the duration of marriage as the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.

In addition to alimony, the duration of marriage is also a factor in property divisions. When a court distributes the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court begins with the premise of an equal split.

Changes to Alimony?

The appellate court ruled that despite the statute, being one month shy of the statutory definition of “long-term” was a de minimis period given the length of the marriage, and that the family law judge was allowed to overcome the presumption as to the length of the marriage to qualify it as a long-term marriage.

In Florida, we have a rebuttable presumption that a long-term marriage warrants an award of permanent alimony. This court argued that even if the parties’ marriage falls into the “grey area” between a long and a short-term marriage, the family judge can consider other factors beyond the duration of the marriage.

Other factors can include the earning capacity of the recipient of alimony. For instance, there was evidence that the wife’s health precludes employment. While she was just 53 years of age at the time of the divorce, her age was not a valid basis to deny permanent alimony absent evidence her relative youth would allow her to earn income sufficient to support a lifestyle consistent with that she enjoyed during the marriage.

What impact will this decision have on the Legislature, since they are considering scrapping permanent alimony altogether, and re-writing the rules around what the duration of a marriage is?

The new bill will require courts to consider the standard of living established during the marriage, and make specific consideration of the needs and necessities of life for each party after the marriage is dissolved, including a rebuttable presumption that both parties will inevitably have a lower standard of living than that which they enjoyed during the marriage.

The court of appeals opinion is here.

 

Alimony Humbug

Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders is ending ‘a certain romance’ and just filed for divorce from his wife Breana McDow-Helders after two years of ‘crying lightning.’ But alimony may not be an issue in this short-term marriage. Why?

Alimony Humbug

R U Mine?

According to the divorce papers filed, Breana and Matt separated at the end of October. Matt is asking for joint legal and physical custody of their daughter.

Some reports though, Helders says they’ve mutually agreed to not pay each other spousal support after their two-year marriage.

Florida Alimony

Alimony is a frequently written about subject in Florida. Spousal support is governed in Florida by a statute. The alimony statute requires judges to consider several factors, including the duration of the marriage.

The duration of the marriage is an important factor to consider in awarding alimony. For purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years.

By contrast, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years. Not surprisingly, a long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater.

The length of a marriage is measured from the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage. This can be important, for example, after a marriage of short duration, permanent alimony would not usually be available unless the trial judge makes written findings of exceptional circumstances to award permanent alimony.

Worst Nightmare

The couple got hitched in Italy back in June 2016. They have a 3-year-old daughter together. It’s unclear what led to the split.

Matt and Breanna started dating way back in 2011, and they got engaged in 2013 before tying the knot in Europe.

Matt is one of the founding members of the indie rock band, and he’s recorded six studio albums with the Arctic Monkeys. The band has also been nominated for five Grammy Awards.

He has played drums and provided backing vocals on all six of the band’s studio albums. Matt also provided the drum tracks on Iggy Pop’s 2016 studio album Post Pop Depression and played on Lady Gaga’s 2016 album Joanne.

The Daily Mail article is here.

Photo credit Bill Ebbesen

Alimony and Cohabitation

Actress, Alicia Silverstone, is on the hook for large monthly alimony payments following the finalization of her divorce from ex-husband Christopher Jarecki. What’s different is that alimony can end if he cohabitates with someone. What is Florida law on alimony and cohabitation?

Alimony cohabitation

The Wonder Years

According to media sources, the Clueless star is responsible for paying $12,000 per month in spousal support until Jan. 31, 2024, with the due date being the first of every month, according to court documents obtained by ET.

While the 42-year-old actress is required to pay the substantial spousal support sum for the next five years, the agreement provides that if Jarecki, also 42, lives with a “romantic partner” for at least five months out of a 12-month period, Silverstone’s financial obligation “shall immediately terminate.”

The couple also agreed to share joint physical custody of their 7-year old sone, with an equal and fair custody schedule to be agreed upon by both parents.

Florida Alimony & Cohabitation

I’ve written about alimony issues before. An early end to alimony because of cohabitation can be a clause anyone who pays alimony would want. As Silverstone’s divorce shows, very often it can be women paying alimony to men.

In Florida, cohabitation is referred to as a “supportive relationship.” In Florida, our statute allows a court to reduce or terminate an award of alimony if a supportive relationship exists between the recipient of alimony and the person the alimony recipient resides with.

The Crush

In determining whether a supportive relationship exists, the court considers the following:

  • The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode.
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part.
  • The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.
  • Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support.
  • Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of any legal duty to do so.

But simply proving a supportive relationship is not enough. Also, people can waive their right to seek modification of alimony in a settlement agreement. Cohabitation is not as easy to prove as you might think. Even if you can prove a supportive relationship, you must check your agreement to see if you can even modify alimony.

Clueless

The Silverstone agreement also has a clause stating that if his “housing costs” are reduced by at least 50 percent as a result of sharing a residence with any unrelated adult for five months out of a 12-month span, Silverstone would also be free from her support payments.

The pair started dating in 1997 and tied the knot in 2005. They later welcomed their son in May 2011. When Silverstone filed for divorce earlier this year, the actress’ rep released a statement to ET addressing the nature of their split.

According to court documents obtained by ET at the time, Silverstone cited “irreconcilable differences” as the grounds for the termination of their 13-year marriage.

The ET article is available here.

 

New Alimony Penalty

The GOP proposed tax plan has something for everyone. Including a huge surprise for divorcing couples: a tax penalty for divorce. The new law may dramatically change how we treat alimony for taxes, and whether your case will settle.

As Business Insider reports, the tax bill released last week could drastically change the tax treatment of alimony. Currently, alimony is tax-deductible for the paying spouse and taxable to the receiving spouse.

But if you get divorced after the plan is enacted, that would change: Alimony would be paid out of after-tax dollars and would be tax-free to the recipient.

This change would tend to increase the total amount of tax paid by divorced couples, since the ex-spouse who pays alimony is typically the one with the higher income and who faces a higher tax bracket.

Florida Alimony

In Florida a court can grant alimony to either party. There are different types of alimony a court can order: bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent, or any combination of these forms of alimony. In any award of alimony, the court may order periodic payments or payments in lump sum or both.

The court can even consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.

But the very first finding the court has to make in determining whether to award alimony is whether either party has an actual need for alimony or maintenance and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance.

If so, the court must consider all relevant factors, including, the standard of living established during the marriage; the duration of the marriage, the age and the physical and emotional condition of each party, and the financial resources of each party, among other factors.

Alimony Tax Reform

I have written about alimony and taxes, and alimony reform proposals for many years. This time the proposal comes from Congress, no the Florida Legislature.

All told, the proposed change under the tax proposal would lead to the federal government collecting an additional $8.3 billion in taxes from divorced couples over the next 10 years, according to the bill summary.

Arguably, imposing such a substantial tax penalty on divorce could encourage people to stick it out and make their marriages work. But it could also financially trap people in unhappy marriages.

One argument for this change is that it would be easier for the IRS to administer, and IRS data shows that alimony sometimes shows up deducted on one ex-spouse’s return but is not reported as income by the other ex-spouse.

The Impact on Divorces

There are many ways to settle a divorce case and render a judgment. And, one of the most important facts to consider in any divorce is the tax deduction for alimony payments.

Overwhelmingly, divorces include some sort of alimony payment provision. The problem for the new tax bill is that if couples are less likely to reach an agreement on alimony, divorce proceedings could become more gridlocked, time consuming and expensive.

The Business Insider article is here.

 

Women Cheating and Divorce

Since 1990, the rate of married women who report they’ve been cheating on their spouses has increased by 40%, while the rate among men has remained the same. What is the impact of adultery and divorce?

The CNN Report

According to an article in CNN, more women than ever are cheating. What exactly is happening inside marriages to account for the closing gap between men and women and adultery?

According to the article, from a distance, the couples seemed happy enough, or at least content to be doing the family thing. They had cute kids, mortgages, busy social lives, matching sets of dishes.

On the surface, their husbands were reasonable, the marriages modern and equitable. If these women friends were angry unfulfilled or resentful, they didn’t show it.

Then one day, one of them confided in me she’d been having two overlapping affairs over the course of five years.

Almost before I’d finished processing this, another friend told me she was 100 percent faithful to her husband, except when she was out of town for work each month.

Often, they loved their husbands, but felt in some fundamental way that their needs (sexual, emotional, psychological) were not being met inside the marriage. Some even wondered if their husbands knew about their infidelity, choosing to look away.

Adultery and Divorce

I’ve written about the cheating before. Adultery can be the cause of a divorce, but can it impact the outcome? Since Florida became a no-fault state, the fact that, “she (or he) is sleeping with a co-worker” doesn’t hold much traction in court any more.

Anyone can file for divorce without proving any reason for it other than the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Or is it? When is adultery relevant in divorce?

However, there is still a statutory basis for infidelity to be an issue in your divorce proceedings, but not in the way most people think. Here’s a quick review of when adultery can potentially creep into your divorce:

Parenting Plans/Custody

Chapter 61 discusses the “the moral fitness of the parents” as one of the factors the court considers in determining the best interests of a child.

So, if one parent can prove that the other parent’s adultery had, or is reasonably likely to have, an adverse impact on the child, the judge can consider adultery in evaluating what’s in the best interest of the child.

Equitable Distribution

Adultery may impact the division of property. Florida is an equitable distribution state, and it is presumed that property should be evenly divided.

This presumption may be overcome by proof that one spouse intentionally wasted marital assets.

This waste is sometimes known as dissipation. Paying for expensive jewelry, foreign trips, rent, car payments, and dinners for girlfriends and boyfriends is considered wasting marital assets. The court has the power to reduce an adulterer’s equitable distribution to credit the marital estate for waste.

Alimony

Florida law specifically provides that a court may consider the adultery of either spouse in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded.

However, courts have struggled to reconcile the “fault” of adultery with the concept of “no fault” divorce. The result is a mix of opinions depending on the judges.

Back to the Study

These women from the CNN article were turning to adultery not as a way to explode a marriage, but as a way to stay in it. The women seemed in control of their own transgressions. There seemed to be something new about this approach.

Twenty or thirty years ago they might have opted for divorce, because surely there was another man out there who could do better in this role, who could satisfy them completely.

But a lot of these women are children of divorce. They lived through the difficulties divorce can create.

The CNN article is here.