When a Florida court considers whether to grant temporary alimony, it balances the needs of the requesting spouse against the other spouse’s ability to pay. Fonderson v. Lairap, 98 So. 3d 715, 717 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012), citing de Gutierrez v. Gutierrrez, 19 So.3d 1110 (Fla. 2d DCA 2009). In weighing the needs of the requesting spouse, the court also considers the parties’ standard of living. Id. Trial courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to award temporary alimony. Gutierrez, 19 So.3d at 1112-13. Even so, such decisions must be supported by competent, substantial evidence. Id., citing Driscoll v. Driscoll, 915 So.2d 771, 773 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).
In Fonderson, the husband in a divorce proceeding appealed an order granting his former wife temporary alimony. On appeal, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting the former wife alimony. The trial court found that the husband and his witness were not credible when describing the husband’s financial state. Fonderson, 98 So.3d at 718. The lower court noted that the husband had the ability to meet his obligations and that certain expenses he incurred were unnecessary. Id., citing Tomaszewski v. Tomaszewski, 793 So.2d 1156, 1158 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001)(finding that a negative cash flow, not being otherwise explained, reasonably supports an inference that a party’s earnings are greater than the party represents them to be); see also, Ugarte v. Ugarte, 608 So.2d 838 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992)(recognizing that a spouse’s ability to maintain a standard of living at a certain financial level is probative evidence of the spouse’s income).
The husband in Fonderson also argued that his former wife was highly educated and therefore capable of contributing to her support. However, the wife testified that she tried unsuccessfully to seek employment and the husband presented no evidence to contradict her testimony. Id. at 718. Finally, regarding the wife’s standard of living, the husband’s accountant testified that the wife needed only $1,617 per month after deducting what he described as “non-necessities” such as dry cleaning, maid service, clothing, gifts and vacations. Id. The trial court, however, rejected this evidence and instead found that the former wife “was entitled to keep some semblance of the standard of living to which she was accustomed during the marriage.” Id. Based on these findings, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s award of temporary alimony to the wife.
Two points are worth mentioning regarding Fonderson. First, the court can consider evidence of the parties’ lifestyle in determining a spouse’s ability to pay alimony. Second, Fonderson reminds us that courts do not view temporary alimony merely as a way to provide for basic necessities. Instead, temporary alimony reflects a spouse’s right to maintain a standard of living comparable to the lifestyle that existed before commencement of the divorce proceeding.