Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

A supportive relationship can affect an alimony award before it is even established. That is what happened in the case Bruce v. Bruce, 243 So.3d 461 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018) where at the time of trial, the former wife was residing with her boyfriend.

The evidence established that the parties had a long-term marriage of 20 years before separating. The former wife earned no more than $15,000 per year working part-time because the former husband wanted her to stay home and take care of the parties’ children. The former husband earned about $70,000 per year. Before trial, the former wife moved out of the marital home and into a home with her boyfriend because she could no longer afford to care for herself or the marital home. The former wife had multiple health issues including hearing impairment, a broken ankle, and permanent arthritis. She was also a three time cancer survivor and had herniated discs from an accident.

The trial court found the former wife had a need for alimony and that the former husband had the ability to pay it, but it found that she was in a supportive relationship and therefore denied any alimony to her. Separately, the court inexplicably awarded school boundary designation to the former husband. The former wife appealed on both issues.

As to the alimony, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling, holding, “In the instant case, the trial court did not make any findings regarding the nature and extent of the former wife's supportive relationship, or how that relationship diminished her need, permanently, for alimony. On remand, if the trial court determines that the former wife is in a supportive relationship, it must determine how, and to what extent, that relationship mitigates the former wife's need for alimony.” Turning to the school designation, the court found it was error to award it to the former husband without making any required findings as to the best interest of the child.

Supportive relationships complicate an alimony determination, but they do not eliminate alimony. If such a relationship is an issue in your Florida divorce case, contact a Miami divorce lawyer to go over the best plan. A consultation can give you a road map full of valuable strategy and advice.