Florida Alimony and Child Support Award Reversed

Alimony and child support award in a Florida divorce case has been reversed by the 2nd District Court of Appeals.  The decision is an important one for any Florida couple seeking a divorce in the Sunshine State.

In a recent case of Barlow v Barlow, the trial court issued a final judgment of dissolution of marriage ordering child support and alimony. The case focused on using bonus income for a party when determining an award of child support and alimony. “Section 61.30(2), Florida Statutes (2007), requires trial courts to consider bonuses in calculating a spouse’s income for purposes of child support, and section 61.08(2)(g) requires trial courts to consider ‘[a]ll sources of income available to either party’ in computing an award of alimony.” Drew v. Drew, 27 So. 3d802, 802 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010) (alteration in original). Thus, we have held that bonus income must be included in the calculations of both child support and alimony when it is regular and continuous. See id. (citing Parry v. Parry, 933 So. 2d 9, 16 (Fla. 2d DCA2006)); see also Vergara v. Vergara, 831 So. 2d 251, 252 (Fla. 3d DCA 2002) (“[B]efore a trial court can include a bonus in calculating net income for child support purposes, the bonus must be regular and continuous.”). In this case, the trial court erred in relying on the 2013 bonus—”the last received bonus prior to the date of filing as being the most accurate in terms of the Husband’s ability to pay.”

The lesson to take from this recent case is that for purposes of determining alimony and child support, bonuses received by either party may be used for calculation but it has to be proven that the bonuses are regular and continuous. This may require looking at the parties recent pay stubs, tax returns and other financial documents to see if there is a pattern of bonuses. The judge will then decide whether bonus income shall be used when determining the need and ability for alimony and for calculation purposes of child support.

As a family law attorney, recent decisions by the courts affect the strategy and eventual outcome of divorce cases.  If you are considering a divorce in Florida, give us a call for a free initial consultation.

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