A Florida appellate court ruled that, after a twenty year marriage, a cheating spouse had a “meritorious claim” for alimony from her (now former) husband despite her “alleged adulterous behavior.” The case is Paula Keyser v. Curtis Keyser.
The facts we have in the instant case are few but should set a complete stage as an illustration for people who may be considering or facing divorce in Florida. One, we learned that the couple was married for more than 20 years, which is considered a “long term marriage.” Two, as mentioned above, the Former Wife allegedly cheated (and appears to now be in a “supportive relationship”). Three, the trial court denied her alimony for those reasons. Four, the appellate court reversed. It will go back down to the trial court to fix alimony based on economic, rather than emotional, grounds.
Here’s how this works:
- If there is a “long term marriage” (17+ years), there is a rebuttable presumption that permanent periodic alimony is appropriate.
- Under F.S. 61.08(2), the trial court must first make a specific factual finding that (a) one spouse needs alimony or maintenance and that (b) the other spouse has the ability to pay.
- Cheating is considered but, absent a showing of a related depletion of marital assets, a party’s adulterous misconduct is not a valid reason to award a greater share of those marital assets to the innocent spouse or to deny the adulterous spouse alimony. Need and ability to pay are the primary considerations even if there is evidence of adultery.
- The trial court should then consider the 10 economic factors under the Alimony Statute, F.S. 61.08(2).
Back in the Keyser case, the appellate court found that the trial court did not follow steps 1-4 above and apparently put too much reliance on “scant evidence” of how much money the Former Wife had “pooled” in the “supportive relationship” [presumably, this refers to her new relationship].
Bottom line: alimony in Florida is almost exclusively an economic decision and even if adultery is part of the picture, the bad behavior is considered when coupled
pun with a depletion of marital assets.
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