Can a Florida Judge Award More Alimony Than a Spouse Requested?
A Florida court may award alimony in a divorce case when the judge makes a “specific factual determination” that a spouse “has an actual need.” There are a number of individual factors the court may consider in making this determination, including how long the parties were married, the relative financial resources of each spouse.
Appeals Court Reduces Alimony Award Due to Lack of Justification for Exceeding Ex-Wife’s Request
A party to a divorce may request the court grant a specific amount of alimony. Such a request does not override the judge’s legal obligation to make an independent determination as to what constitutes an appropriate award. Still, the judge must base any final alimony award on the evidence presented.
Recently, a Florida appellate court ruled a judge overstepped his authority when he ordered the husband to pay his wife more alimony than she requested. The parties were previously married for 36 years. In her amended divorce petition, the wife asked the court for permanent periodic alimony of $1,000 per month. (“Permanent” in this context means the ex-husband most continue making periodic payments until the ex-wife dies or remarries.)
Following a hearing, the judge awarded wife $1,250 per month in alimony. The husband appealed this award as excessive. The Florida First District Court of Appeal agreed noting, as a general rule, a party is entitled to “rely on the claim” made in the original pleadings. That is to say, the wife only asked for $1,000 per month, and while the judge is permitted to award more than that amount–especially in a situation where the ex-husband did not show up for the hearing–any increase must still be justified by the evidence presented.
Here, the First District found the evidence did not support a higher award. To the contrary, the appellate court noted the wife never asked for more money at the hearing. And while she did testify that her expenses were higher than previously stated, her net income was also higher. As a result, the wife’s financial need for alimony was actually lower, not higher, than it was when she filed the petition in the first place.
Accordingly, the First District Court of Appeal reduced the alimony award from $1,250 per month to $1,000 per month.
Get Alimony Advice from a Florida Divorce Lawyer Today
Disputes over the amount and type of alimony are not uncommon in Florida divorce cases. An experienced Boca Raton divorce and family lawyer can assist you in seeking or opposing an alimony petition. Contact WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team today.