Family Law Appellate Update for week ending 1/20/17

FelixBaseman
FelixBaseman

Jimenez v. Jimenez (Fourth DCA, January 18, 2017)

Among other things, the parties’ final judgment of divorce awarded the wife permanent alimony and ordered that the husband carry life insurance in the wife’s name to secure the award.  Further, the judgment ordered that when the husband’s child support obligation ended, his alimony would automatically increase.  The husband appealed.

First, the District Court reversed the permanent alimony award because the trial court had failed to consider “findings of fact relative to” each of the alimony factors set forth in section 61.08(1).  As such, the District Court was required to remand the judgment so that the trial court could make these findings.

Second, the District Court explained that it is generally erroneous to provide for an automatic, future change in alimony based on the occurrence of an anticipated future event, except in exceptional circumstances.  Moreover, for the trial court to tie this automatic increase to a child reaching the age of majority, absent extenuating circumstances, is inappropriate.  On remand, the District Court ordered the trial court to make specific findings of extenuating circumstances or to remove the automatic increase provision from the judgment.

Finally, the District Court explained that a party cannot be required to carry life insurance to secure an alimony award absent findings of a “demonstrated need to protect the alimony recipient.”  Further, the trial court must specifically find that such insurance is available and affordable to the payor, and it must make findings regarding the financial impact that such obligation will have on the payor.  Finally, the amount of the life insurance may not exceed the amount of the total support obligation.  Because the lower court had failed to make any of these requisite findings, it was instructed to do so on remand or to reconsider its award.