Many executives and corporate officers are compensated through bonus programs. Bonuses are of course never guaranteed and often fluctuate. Case law is very clear on the use of bonuses when calculating alimony and child support obligations. It’s important to understand the specific details of the case law pertaining to the applicability of bonuses when determining income. Income is frequently based on historic earnings but the phrase “historic earnings” leaves much gray area for determination of what earnings were and what the lifestyle of the marriage was.
In divorce matters with high net worth the calculation of child support and certain other various divorce provisions are applied differently. Florida has a good fortune support provision which states that when the calculation of child support is likely to exceed the needs of the child that the child support guidelines should not be used but instead the needs of the child should be determined (similarly to those of the spouse in alimony). It’s important to understand this distinction because it can save a payor parent thousands of dollars a month. Likewise equitable distribution in a high-net-worth divorce case is different from that in a traditional divorce case wherein it’s important to consider the tendencies of the asset being distributed. For example some income-producing assets when given to a spouse through a divorce proceeding may alleviate or eliminate the need for alimony to that spouse whereas keeping said asset would increase the payor’s outgoing monthly expenses. In sum it’s important to have an experienced attorney who understands the unique intricacies of your case.
(1) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, in addition to all other remedies available to a court to do equity between the parties, or in a proceeding for disposition of assets following a dissolution of marriage by a court which lacked jurisdiction over the absent spouse or lacked jurisdiction to dispose of the assets, the court shall set apart to each spouse that spouse’s nonmarital assets and liabilities, and in distributing the marital assets and liabilities between the parties, the court must begin with the premise that the distribution should be equal, unless there is a justification for an unequal distribution based on all relevant factors, including:
(a) The contribution to the marriage by each spouse, including contributions to the care and education of the children and services as homemaker.
(b) The economic circumstances of the parties.
(c) The duration of the marriage.
(d) Any interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities of either party.
(e) The contribution of one spouse to the personal career or educational opportunity of the other spouse.
(f) The desirability of retaining any asset, including an interest in a business, corporation, or professional practice, intact and free from any claim or interference by the other party.
(g) The contribution of each spouse to the acquisition, enhancement, and production of income or the improvement of, or the incurring of liabilities to, both the marital assets and the nonmarital assets of the parties.
(h) The desirability of retaining the marital home as a residence for any dependent child of the marriage, or any other party, when it would be equitable to do so, it is in the best interest of the child or that party, and it is financially feasible for the parties to maintain the residence until the child is emancipated or until exclusive possession is otherwise terminated by a court of competent jurisdiction. In making this determination, the court shall first determine if it would be in the best interest of the dependent child to remain in the marital home; and, if not, whether other equities would be served by giving any other party exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
(i) The intentional dissipation, waste, depletion, or destruction of marital assets after the filing of the petition or within 2 years prior to the filing of the petition.
(j) Any other factors necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
For case information on this, see 617 So.2d 373, District Court of Appeal of Florida,
(Francis X. McMonagle v.Peggy McMonagle)
(1) In a proceeding for dissolution of marriage, the court may grant alimony to either party, which alimony may be bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent in nature or any combination of these forms of alimony. In any award of alimony, the court may order periodic payments or payments in lump sum or both. The court may consider the adultery of either spouse and the circumstances thereof in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be awarded. In all dissolution actions, the court shall include findings of fact relative to the factors enumerated in subsection (2) supporting an award or denial of alimony.
(2) In determining whether to award alimony or maintenance, the court shall first make a specific factual determination as to whether either party has an actual need for alimony or maintenance and whether either party has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance. If the court finds that a party has a need for alimony or maintenance and that the other party has the ability to pay alimony or maintenance, then in determining the proper type and amount of alimony or maintenance under subsections (5)-(8), the court shall consider all relevant factors, including, but not limited to:
(a) The standard of living established during the marriage.
(b) The duration of the marriage.
(c) The age and the physical and emotional condition of each party.
(d) The financial resources of each party, including the nonmarital and the marital assets and liabilities distributed to each.
(e) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and, when applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to enable such party to find appropriate employment.
(f) The contribution of each party to the marriage, including, but not limited to, services rendered in homemaking, child care, education, and career building of the other party.
(g) The responsibilities each party will have with regard to any minor children they have in common.
(h) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a nontaxable, nondeductible payment.
(i) All sources of income available to either party, including income available to either party through investments of any asset held by that party.
(j) Any other factor necessary to do equity and justice between the parties.
(3) To the extent necessary to protect an award of alimony, the court may order any party who is ordered to pay alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy or a bond, or to otherwise secure such alimony award with any other assets which may be suitable for that purpose.
(4) For purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.
For more information on this topic, see: 940 So.2d 1221
District Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District.
(Craig Donoff v.Mitzi Robin Donoff)
There is a difference between the way that defined benefit plans and defined contribution plans are divided during a divorce. Defined benefit plans such as a pension are traditionally divided from one half of the value accumulated from the time of marriage to the time of divorce. It’s often necessary to have a qualified domestic relations order entered to effectively divide this plan. Alternatively qualified defined contribution plans such as a 401(k) and IRA vary greatly in the way that they are distributed. A 401(k) would frequently require a qualified domestic relations order such as a pension. However, an IRA can simply be rolled over after the appropriate calculation is done. Again the mathematical equation used is often one half the contribution from the time of the marriage to the time of the divorce.
(1) All vested and nonvested benefits, rights, and funds accrued during the marriage in retirement, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, deferred compensation, and insurance plans and programs are marital assets subject to equitable distribution.
(2) If the parties were married for at least 10 years, during which at least one of the parties who was a member of the federal uniformed services performed at least 10 years of creditable service, and if the division of marital property includes a division of uniformed services retired or retainer pay, the final judgment shall include the following:
(a) Sufficient information to identify the member of the uniformed services;
(b) Certification that the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act was observed if the decree was issued while the member was on active duty and was not represented in court;
(c) A specification of the amount of retired or retainer pay to be distributed pursuant to the order, expressed in dollars or as a percentage of the disposable retired or retainer pay.
(3) An order which provides for distribution of retired or retainer pay from the federal uniformed services shall not provide for payment from this source more frequently than monthly and shall not require the payor to vary normal pay and disbursement cycles for retired or retainer pay in order to comply with the order.
For more information on this, see 703 So.2d 451 Supreme Court of Florida
(Eldis Raymell Boyett v.Merle M. Boyett)