Quinones: Marital Lifestyle a Superfactor for Alimony?
Nancy Quinones and John Quinones had been married for 18 years when they got divorced. Mrs. Quinones was homemaker during their marriage and at the time of the divorce Mr. Quinones was bringing home over $58,000 a month as an ABC News correspondent. The couple had two children — a daughter who was a minor and an adult son in college.
Mr. Quinones had voluntarily assumed full responsibility for the son’s private college tuition, his car and car insurance at an annual cost of over $52,000.
The former wife argued on appeal that she was shortchanged by the trial court’s after-tax award in permanent periodic alimony.
She argued that the couple had lived a fairly luxurious lifestyle during the marriage: Sending their children to private schools, traveling extensively, staying in luxury hotels and dining at expensive restaurants. Plus she was unemployed and had been so for over 18 years.
The court below, however, cut down the expenses listed on the former wife’s financial affidavit to award her $14,135 a month, leaving the former husband with $44,000 to fund his stated $13,000 a month personal expenses.
But Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal reversed this decision based on two points …
First — Voluntary payments to son
The trial court considered the former husband’s agreement to pay the expenses for the couple’s adult son. In weighing the needs of the Wife and the ability of the Husband to pay, the court considered the fact that the Husband had agreed to assume full responsibility for the private college tuition and other expenses of couple’s adult son. The appeals court ruled that although the father may well feel a moral obligation to pay these expenses, he is not legally required to pay them. The court below specifically listed this adult child’s expenses as part of the former husband’s monthly expenses in the final judgment thereby reducing the amount available to pay alimony to the former wife.
This was ruled improper upon appeal and consequently reversed.
Second — Established lifestyle
The former wife maintained she needed $28,000 a month to support the lifestyle she had enjoyed during the marriage. On the former husband’s conceded $58,000 a month net income, payment of this amount would leave him with over $30,000 a month for his own support.
While the court below was not obligated to accept the former wife’s representation of her needs, it was not free to disregard the parties’ standard of living to reduce her expenses to approximate what the trial court believed reasonable.
In this case, the former wife’s financial affidavit showed that she was then paying $4,000 a month for a rented condominium. At trial, the former wife testified that she intended to purchase a home, after the parties’ Utah home sold, and anticipated a monthly mortgage, taxes and insurance payment of around $6,700.
Based on the parties’ standard of living, this was not unreasonable. Yet the court below considered decreasing the amount the former wife was then paying for rent in calculating the support award.
Moreover, the court below decreased a number of other items detailed on the former wife’s financial affidavit for things such as vacations, grooming, entertainment, household expenses, and meals at home. These cuts eliminated the former wife’s stated ability to engage in activities with her children and their friends as she had in the past.
In light of the uncontradicted evidence that the former husband had the ability to pay the amounts requested to maintain the former wife’s standard of living, those amounts that the trial court concluded to be valid reflections of the former wife’s pre-dissolution expenses should not have been adjusted. In sum, upon appeal it was determined that the court below determined the former wife’s need without considering the standard of living enjoyed by both parties during the marriage. And the amount was reversed.
This is indeed a positive case for women in that Florida courts generally only consider necessary living expenses in determining alimony payments while ignoring pre-divorce lifestyle.