What it takes to prove or disprove a Florida spousal support claim
Alimony is one of the more important components of a divorce settlement or judgment. The payment of support from one ex-spouse to the other after the divorce is final can make a difference in the lifestyle of the recipient and of the payor in some instances.
We previously published a post about the basics of spousal support in Florida. Today we look at the types of evidence spouses can submit in a contested Florida divorce to either support an award or object to one.
Is there a need for alimony and the ability to pay?
Before a Florida judge can award alimony, they must first determine whether there is a need for support and if the payor has the means to pay. A spouse hoping to receive spousal support must show their need for it. To show need, the potential recipient could work with a financial planner to create a future budget for establishing that spouse’s separate household and submit the budget to the court. The financial expert could also testify if necessary.
Showing the need for support also involves evidence of the recipient’s ability to earn income and of their assets. For example, they could show they had not worked for years while a homemaker and would need retraining, or that they are at an age or have a medical issue making meaningful work unlikely. This spouse could undergo a vocational assessment or submit medical records showing the impact of mental or physical diagnoses on the ability to work.
On the other hand, the payor would likely want to submit their own projected budget along with evidence of accounts, investments and other available assets. They may assert that the recipient does not need support or that they are unable to pay it, at least at the level requested. In response, the recipient may need to use a forensic accountant or an investigator if that spouse suspects hidden or squandered money or assets.
For wealthy couples, this raises questions of the standard of living to which they were accustomed when married. “Needs” may look different depending on what a reasonable lifestyle looks like considering available income and assets.
Florida law allows the judge to consider adultery of either spouse when deciding on alimony. If one party suspects it but the other has not admitted it, an investigation to uncover proof of marital misconduct may be helpful, especially if it shows that the unfaithful spouse spent marital funds on the alleged paramour.
Florida law directs judges to consider anything relevant to determining whether alimony would be fair and just. The spousal support statute contains a long list of specific factors that the court must weigh (in addition to anything else relevant). Either party can submit evidence proving (or weakening) the presence of a factor and its impact on the alimony question.
An experienced family lawyer can provide guidance about how to gather or create documentary or other evidence to present in court for this purpose.