Occasionally, a unique familial situation arises in which one party seeks
support from another
without also seeking a
divorce. In certain
religious contexts, for example, spouses may be uncomfortable divorcing—but
may also need to account for living and financial arrangements in line
with the couple's reality. Fortunately, Florida law allows for such
arrangements and provides via
statute for both alimony and child support in absence of marital dissolution.
The law states as follows: "If a person having the ability to contribute
to the maintenance of his or her spouse and support of his or her minor
child fails to do so, the spouse who is not receiving support may apply
to the court for alimony and for support for the child without seeking
dissolution of marriage."
The court, then, may "enter an order as it deems just and proper."
However, because this law is so simple on its face, Florida courts have
had some trouble applying it to real-world situations.
The Old Rule of the Florida Supreme Court
In 1956, the Supreme Court of Florida decided the case of
Bredin. There, the court faced a request by an undivorced wife for alimony in
lump sum form. A lower court had awarded the wife such a payment—but
the Supreme Court reversed that decision and held that support
in the absence of divorce could not consist of a lump sum award.
The court noted that alimony, at its core, was designed to provide a wife
the necessities of life (food, clothing, housing, etc.). It considered
alimony to be an "allowance" the husband can be made to pay
her when she lives apart from him—whether in divorce or not. But,
because of the underlying purposes of alimony, the court held that a large,
lump sum payment was especially inappropriate in non-divorce settings.
Florida Appeals Court Questions the Old Rule
Recently, however, the Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals questioned
that old case's reasoning and decision. In the 2003 case of
Coltea, a separating couple—for religious reasons (the husband was a Romanian
pastor)—did not want to divorce. But the wife sought spousal support
and the trial court awarded her a lump sum payment.
For obvious reasons, the husband argued that this decision was in direct
conflict with the
Bredin case and insisted the appeals court reverse the lower court's decision.
But 2003 was not 1956—and the court refused to heed the husband's
request. It noted that, whatever the original reasons for alimony, today's
divorce laws and attitudes are much different than they once were. Spousal
support is no longer an allowance and no longer tied to antiquated notions
of gender roles.
Coltea, there were reasons to believe the husband would not keep up his support
payments. Therefore, an upfront, lump sum (paid out of the proceeds of
the sale of the marital home) was appropriate.
"If we are wrong in this," the appeals court wrote, "our
decision will be in conflict with
Bredin, and the supreme court will have the jurisdiction to point us in the right
But this has not happened yet.
Seeking Help for Spousal Support
If you are seeking a divorce or spousal support—or have any other
family law-related questions—please reach out to our legal professionals
. in Miami today.