Nominal Alimony is Alive and Well in Florida

 In Law Planet

AlimonyChapter 61 of the Florida statutes deals with family law issues. One of the issues that normally comes up in many marriages is the eligibility for alimony. Alimony can come in many flavors both permanent and temporary.

What is nominal alimony?

Lump sum alimony can be used by a judge as well. One of the more controversial types of alimony is called nominal alimony. We all know that alimony is based on need and ability to pay, but what happens if there is a need but no current ability to pay? Is that the end of the analysis? Can a retaliatory spouse quit their job and/or deplete assets such that there is no ability to pay? No. Most of the time a judge will see through those shenanigans and will impute income to the party that is trying to play games of the system. But sometimes there are legitimate reasons why there may be no current ability to pay or perhaps no current need. But the future does not bode well for the recipient and something needs to be done to address that circumstance. Nominal alimony can be used to address this exact situation. It can typically be a dollar, $10 or $100 a month, any amount will do. It keeps “the hooks in,” so that a recipient can seek an upward modification when the pain parties financial circumstances change.

A recent appellate court decision illustrated how this works. In the Florida 1st DCA case of Byers v. Byers, a recalcitrant husband quit his banking job that was earning him almost $150,000 per year. He stopped paying support, stopped paying the mortgage, and pretty much became a deadbeat spouse who was retaliating against his wife and the divorce. The issue of imputing income notwithstanding, the judge dealt with his reduced income by awarding a dollar a month and permanent periodic alimony. Given the facts of the case as this deadbeat created them, the judge had no problems seeing through the charade and giving appropriate relief to the wife, who was a stay-at-home mom. When he stopped paying temporary child support and alimony, she had to go on food stamps and other government assistance. This is a somewhat common occurrence in family law. The judges have the power to deal with this type of behavior in this fashion. The hard part will be on the part of the now former wife in seeking modification when this now deadbeat dad continues this behavior.

Images courtesy of by David-Castillo-Dominici

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