Parties Seeking More Alimony Than They First Request Must Make Proper Amendments
Unlike child support, which is determined by a formula and where need is not a factor that is considered when making decisions about who pays what, in alimony situations, need and ability to pay are the two most significant factors that a court will consider. Of course, spouses in a divorce are usually left arguing over who has need, how much is needed, and whether there is any ability by the paying spouse to actually make payments.
Case Applies Alimony Factors
A recent case provides some insight on how courts will determine need and ability to pay. In the case, the parties were divorcing after 36 years of marriage. The appellee was requesting permanent alimony in the amount of $1,000 per month. Her financial affidavit, which listed her income and liabilities, showed a monthly deficit of about $500 per month, although she was currently making $1,900 monthly. The court also noted that she was in poor physical condition.
The husband’s affidavit showed he made more money, but not a lot more–only about $3,000 per month, but he also showed a monthly deficit after subtracting his bills of about $3,000. The parties’ home was in foreclosure, and the husband was working multiple jobs, many paying at or about minimum wage, to make ends meet.
After subtracting out some expenses that were not actually being paid by the husband (such as the mortgage), the court ordered the husband to pay about $1,250 in monthly alimony, and the husband appealed.
Alimony Award Affirmed but Lowered
The appellate court found that the alimony award was justified, as 36 years was long enough to warrant an alimony award, and that there was a need by the wife and the husband had an ability to pay. However, the court lowered the award from the $1,250 down to $1,000, because that’s the amount that was asked for in the original petition by the Wife.
The court said that parties have a right to rely on what is asked for in the documents that the other party files. If a party asks for $1,000 in alimony, the paying party can anticipate that his biggest payment will be $1,000.
Of course, a party can always ask to amend a petition to raise the requested amount (and the court may even accept a request to amend orally, at the final hearing, for parties that represent themselves) but such a request was not made by the wife in this case.
There was also no demonstrated need for the additional alimony, as the court found the wife had begun earning more money, and had reduced expenses.
Our Tampa family attorneys at the Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group can explain every step of the alimony process to you, and help you determine whether you are a candidate to pay or receive alimony. Call us with any questions you may have.