Sometimes, it is appropriate for a court to combine two different types of alimony and award both in a Florida divorce. In one case, however, this was not appropriate, as found by an appellate court in Hedden v. Hedden, 240 So.3d 148 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018).
The parties were married for 37 years before they filed for divorce. The wife was a stay-at-home mother with no higher education who last worked 12 years prior to the date of trial in the divorce. The wife had a medical condition but conceded that she could earn minimum wage. The husband on the other hand earned over $100,000 per year and was the primary breadwinner during the marriage.
At trial, the court found the wife had a need for alimony and the husband had the ability to pay it. The alimony was awarded in two parts - $2,700 per month in durational alimony and $1,000 per month in permanent alimony. The durational alimony was to be paid until the wife turned 62. The court found the wife would be eligible to collect social security benefits at that time and thus prospectively reduced her alimony to $1,000 per month on the belief that she could make up the difference in the amount of social security income she could collect.
On appeal, the court sided with the wife on this issue, holding, “Although Former Wife may be eligible to receive Social Security when she reaches the age of sixty-two, it is unknown whether she will elect to receive partial benefits at that time or choose full benefits, which would only be available at a later time. The trial court properly found that it could not base the alimony award on Former Husband's future retirement, so it likewise should not diminish the alimony award based on the potential availability of future Social Security benefits. Therefore, on the facts of this case, we conclude that the trial court abused its discretion when it failed to designate the entire alimony award as permanent periodic alimony.”
In the future, if the wife’s needs decreased due to the amount of social security income she was receiving social security income, the husband could petition for modification at that time. If you need help modifying alimony to increase or decrease it, contact a Miami divorce lawyer for assistance. A consultation is the best place to start to understand the next steps.