Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Alimony

While it is important to know what you want in your Florida divorce case, it is equally important to know how to ask for it. Your petition for dissolution of marriage in Florida frames the issues in the case and puts the other party on notice regarding what relief you are seeking. Usually, if you do not include something you want in your petition, you cannot get it at trial. The case Lizzmore v. Lizzmore, 1D17-1734 (Fla. 1st DCA, 2019) sheds light on this.

The former husband appealed a final judgment which obligated him to pay $1,250 per month in permanent alimony to the former wife. The parties were married for over 35 years and the former wife was in “poor physical condition”. The former wife at some point filed an amended petition for dissolution of marriage seeking $1,000 per month in alimony. The former husband argued the trial court abused its discretion in finding the former wife had a need for alimony and that he had the ability to pay it. He further argued that it was error for the court to award more than the $1,000 per month the former wife requested in her petition.

The appellate court disagreed that the trial court abused its discretion in finding alimony was warranted. Noting the former wife’s health and her “minimal assets” the appellate court concluded there was no abuse of discretion in the trial court’s finding that the former wife needed alimony. There was similarly no error in finding the former husband had the ability to pay alimony based on the trial court’s findings regarding his monthly expenses and income.

However, with regard to the amount awarded ($1,250), the appellate court reversed this and modified the alimony to $1,000 per month, holding “Here, in her amended petition for dissolution, Appellee requested $1,000 in permanent periodic alimony, yet the Final Judgment awarded her an amount in excess of the requested amount. [. . .] Appellee never asked to amend her petition to seek a higher amount. She described having higher expenses, but she did not ask the court to award her anything greater than what she sought in her pleading, and she never suggested that $1,000 per month would not suffice. Moreover, the evidence presented at the final hearing did not justify an award greater than that sought in the pleadings. [. . .] We hold that the trial court erred in awarding alimony in excess of what Appellee requested in her petition, as Appellee was in a better position than at the time she filed her pleadings.”

Because your petition can be used against you in your Florida divorce case, it is important to allow a Miami divorce lawyer to assist you with drafting it. A Florida divorce lawyer can frame the issues appropriately in your pleadings so that you are entitled to the maximum relief allowed by law. Start with a consultation to understand your next steps.