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Spousal Support in Florida
April 26, 2013
Spousal support is always a difficult issue.
For the dependent spouse, a stream of income may be all there is to show for many years of marriage, as couples may have spent all their available income. Where one spouse sacrificed his or her (we are seeing more and more cases where the pronoun is “his”) earning capacity for the sake of marriage, either by staying home with the children or moving to a new state or city to facilitate the other spouse’s employment situation, sharing this income in the future is only fair.
On the other hand, people who work for their income (and who doesn’t?) want to keep as much of it as possible. Paying taxes, FICA and health insurance is bad enough. As one Texas lawyer put it: “Paying alimony is like feeding oats to a dead horse.”
The laws on spousal support vary among the states, but Florida may be greatly restricting how much has to be paid. According to a recent article, not only would the law limit the amount and duration of support, but would do so retroactively.
The retroactive part alone could lead to severely harsh results. As pointed out in the article by my friend Randy Kessler, some parties negotiate support in lieu of property division payments. To allow a court to modify only part of such an agreement could lead to some very inappropriate results.
Perhaps Governor Scott will veto the bill. If not, I’ll write again on the potential effects of such legislation.
For the moment, Wisconsin is a relatively liberal state for spousal support. In practice (which is far more important than the written laws) for a short term marriage (usually under ten years, but definitely under five years) it’s rare to order any spousal support at all. For long term marriages (usually over 20 years, but almost always over 25 years) it’s rare for the court to set a limit.
Courts rarely, if ever, award over 50% of the joint income as support so as to not destroy the incentive to work.
While situations can vary, in general, our courts do a pretty good job of walking the line between recognizing contributions to a spouse’s earning capacity and destroying the incentive to work. As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.