How Does Being a Stay-at-Home Parent Affect Alimony Decisions in Florida?

Alan R. Burton Attorney at Law

On the surface of it, the decision about whether to continue working after you have children or to leave the workforce for a certain number of years after your children are born is more controversial than it should be. It is not hard to find blogs and countless discussion forums full of unkind sentiments toward one or the other type of parent. Working mothers might imagine that the mommies on the playground in the middle of the day are judging them for being self-centered career women, while stay-at-home moms might imagine that their peers who continued working see them as boring and lacking drive. Fortunately, Florida law recognizes the contribution of income-earning spouses to a marriage and a family, and it also recognizes the contribution of spouses who do not have a paid job. In fact, Florida divorce courts freely acknowledge that having one spouse stay home with the children can be a source of support to the career of the other spouse and the financial health of a family.

Alimony and Stay-at-Home Parents

Permanent alimony in Florida is the stuff of legend, but it is neither a given nor terribly elusive.  It all depends on the specific circumstances of the family. Typically, the recipient of permanent alimony is someone who was married for at least 17 years and did not earn an income for most of the marriage. Besides chronic illnesses, being a stay-at-home parent is the most common reason for not working during a long marriage. These are some recent cases where stay-at-home parents have requested alimony; in some cases, the courts awarded it.

  • Brezault v. Brezault: Both parents worked during the marriage, but the husband reduced his working hours after the child was born. He continued to work fewer hours in order to spend more time with the child. Therefore, the court ruled that the wife, whose income was higher, should pay him durational alimony.
  • Dickson v. Dickson: The wife was out of the workforce for 20 years, beginning in her early 20s, raising the couple’s three children. The trial court awarded her rehabilitative alimony, as she was studying to become a surgical technician at the time of the divorce. On appeal, she successfully argued that she had lost a lot of her earning potential during two decades as a stay-at-home parent. The appeals court granted her request for permanent alimony.
  • Hua v. Tsung: The wife requested permanent alimony, as she had been a stay-at-home parent during most of the couple’s 17 years of marriage. The court instead awarded her rehabilitative alimony, so that she could become certified as a nurse; it imputed an annual income of more than $50,000 per year to her after receiving her certification and determined that she did not need permanent alimony.

Contact Alan Burton About Your Need for Spousal Support

Florida courts are in agreement that stay-at-home parents are entitled to alimony, but they decide what type of alimony on a case-by-case basis. Contact Alan R. Burton in Boca Raton, Florida with questions about divorce and spousal support.

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