Alimony must be based on spouse’s ability to pay

Even though an ex-husband was earning far more money than his wife and the wife needed more money to get by, a divorce judge couldn’t order alimony if the ex-husband couldn’t reasonably afford it.

That’s the word from the Florida Court of Appeals.

In this case, Matthew Mills and his wife Tracey – who had one child – ran up significant debt during their marriage. When they decided to divorce, they were each in difficult financial straits and had debts greater than their incomes.

In addition to determining custody of the child, the divorce judge ordered Matthew to pay alimony, based on the fact that he had a much higher income than Tracey and that she had a need for it.

But Matthew appealed, arguing that due to his debts and his child support obligations, he had no ability to pay alimony.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Matthew. It said that a divorce judge isn’t required to make a couple’s financial situations equal, and that putting the husband into an even deeper financial hole than he was already in would do little to help the wife.