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Is spousal support a contentious issue in high-asset divorces?

When the circumstances warrant it, Florida law supports an award of alimony, also called spousal maintenance. Yet spousal maintenance  can be a contentious issue in high-asset divorce cases. The calculation is also not as straightforward as child support, where state law provides statutory factors.

Although Florida law does not expressly establish minimum spousal maintenance awards, family law courts do consider several common factors in evaluating the reasonableness of a requested maintenance award. The length of the marriage and each party’s income earning potential are starting points. Other relevant factors may include each party’s age, health and education. The court will also evaluate the lifestyle to which the parties had grown accustomed to during their marriage.

In a recent example, a financial expert offered testimony in the divorce of Alicia Stephenson from Cancer Treatment Centers of America founder Richard Stephenson. The expert’s lifestyle analysis determined that the wife would require monthly support of over $430,000 to satisfy her living expenses. Those expenses would cover the upkeep of multiple homes, a private chef, pet care, entertainment and other costs.

The divorce has caught the attention of the media not only for the sizable monetary request at stake, but also the procedural twists: the couple signed a prenuptial agreement in 1991. However, the agreement allowed for spousal maintenance to be renegotiated in the event the marriage lasted more than seven years. Since that requirement was met, the couple has found themselves litigating the issue in court.

Our Florida divorce law firm has helped many clients negotiate the issue of spousal maintenance. Mediation can be a wise option if a couple desires to protect their privacy. However, money can also be a stumbling block, in which case our attorneys will prepare for an aggressive showing in court. We know that one party’s ability to pay does not necessarily justify a requested amount of spousal maintenance. For that reason, we prepare an argument based on the case law factors listed above.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Divorce trial ‘lifestyle analysis’: Ex-wife needs $5 million a year,” Kate Thayer and Amanda Marrazzo, Nov. 2, 2016

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