Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Divorce

Florida divorces that include substantial assets and income often include claims for alimony and complicated equitable distribution. Such was the case in Burnett v. Burnett, 237 So.3d 447 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) in which the former husband appealed a final judgment awarding permanent alimony, requiring him to maintain life insurance to secure the alimony award and requiring him to pay 100% of the former wife’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

The trial court awarded the former wife $5,000 in monthly permanent alimony. The former husband argued on appeal that this was improper because the court failed to make sufficient findings regarding the need for alimony. The appellate court held, “‘In determining whether to award alimony or maintenance, the court shall first make a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony or maintenance and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance.’ § 61.08(2), Fla. Stat. After making an initial determination that alimony should be awarded the court must then consider the factors enumerated in section 61.08(2) before determining the type and amount of alimony to award.”

As to the requirement that the former husband maintain life insurance in the amount of $500,000, the appellate court found this to be error because the trial court did not make appropriate findings as to the availability and cost of insurance, the former husband’s ability to pay and the special circumstances that warranted the insurance. Therefore, this portion of the final judgment was reversed.

Finally, the appellate court addressed the award of 100% of the former wife’s attorneys’ fees and costs. The court found this to be error where there was no consideration given to the amount of equitable distribution received by the former wife ($450,000), and the focus of the trial court’s analysis in awarding the fees was on the former husband’s superior ability to pay.

It is possible for Florida family courts to make mistakes in issuing final judgments in Florida family law cases. That is why you should consult with a Miami divorce attorney to assist you with your case and to protect your rights.