The parties were divorced following a 22 year marriage. The Husband did not file an answer to the Petition, nor did he appear at final hearing. The 2008 Final Judgment provided that the Wife would receive the Husband’s one-half interest in the former marital residence as lump sum alimony. The home was the only significant marital asset, valued at $380,000. Four months following entry of the Final Judgment, the Wife remarried. The Former Husband appealed the Final Judgment, stating that he did not receive notice of the final hearing. On appeal, the Final Judgment was reversed as the Former Husband had not been afforded notice. Taylor v. Taylor, 67 So.3d 359 (Fla. 4th DCA 2011).
The Former Husband appeared pro se at the final hearing on remand. The Final Judgment entered by the trial court mirrored the earlier 2008 judgment relating to the award of lump-sum alimony to the Wife of the Husband’s interest in the marital residence. Former Husband appealed.
Lump sum alimony is not a type of alimony, but a means to accomplish the ends of rehabilitative or permanent alimony. Lump sum alimony establishes a fixed monetary obligation that vests immediately, is nonmodifiable and does not terminate when the payee remarries or when the payor dies. Proof of special circumstances must be found by the trial court, and findings must be made that no other forms of alimony are available or appropriate. An award of lump-sum alimony is a two pronged analysis. First, there must be a special necessity. Second, there must be an unusual circumstance, above and beyond the justifications for an award of permanent periodic alimony, to require a non-modifiable award of support.
Although the trial court found unusual circumstance to justify the award of lump-sum alimony in the Former Husband’s threats and history of non-payment, there was no “special necessity,” in light of her remarriage four months following the 2008 Judgment. The Wife’s remarriage terminated her entitlement to permanent alimony. The award to the Former Wife of the Former Husband’s entire interest in the marital residence constituted an abuse of discretion. The award of lump-sum alimony was reversed and remanded to the trial court for distribution of the marital home in accordance with F.S. 61.075.
Richard West and Susan Savard are partner and an associate, respectively, at West Green & Associates, P.L., a Florida law firm that practices exclusively in the areas of Marital and Family Law.