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Florida Appeals Court Reversed Alimony Award (Gross Income vs. Net Income)


Recently, in the case of Conlin v. Conlin, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a decision by a lower court which had awarded a Florida woman permanent periodic alimony. Ultimately, this case turned on the difference between gross income and net income. This distinction plays a critically important role in Florida alimony cases. Here, our Orlando family law team discusses this case and explains the difference between gross and net income.

The Background

During their divorce, Floyd and Stephanie Conlin became entangled in an alimony dispute. While both parties agreed that Stephanie Conlin was entitled to some amount of spousal support, there was sharp disagreement regarding just how much alimony she should be paid. After reviewing the case, the trial court awarded Mrs. Conlin $4,750 per month in permanent periodic alimony. The trial court came to this conclusion by taking a look at Mr. Conlin’s annual income, including his commissions and bonuses. In all, the court found that he had gross annual earnings of  approximately $150,000 per year.

The Appeals Court Reverses and Remands

Upon review, the Second District Appeals Court determined that the trial court only sought to obtain Mr. Conlin’s gross income. The court never made any assessment as to his net income. Citing the case of Canakaris v. Canakaris, the Appeals court notes that net income must be used when assessing a party’s ability to pay spousal support. As the trial court based their alimony award on the incorrect figure, the Appeals Court has remanded the alimony issue back down to the trial court and instructed it to make proper modifications to the spousal support award.

The Difference Between Gross Income and Net Income

For most people, calculating gross income is relatively straightforward. Gross income is simply how much money a person earned. Nothing is deducted from the total and all earnings are considered.

On the other hand, net income is often far more complicated. Net income is adjusted downward from gross income to determine a person’s actually take-home pay. For example, when determining your net income, you will have to subtract your annual income tax obligations.

In Florida, courts have now determined that a party’s “ability to pay” must be reviewed in every alimony case. Of course, there are many different factors that go into assessing a party’s ability to pay. But, above all else, you need to start in the right place to answer this question. In Florida, the right place is with a person’s net income. A court must at least ascertain a party’s net income before it can craft a fair and just alimony award.

Get Alimony Help in Central Florida

At the Law Offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A., our dedicated family law team has extensive experience handling Florida alimony cases. For immediate assistance with your case, please do not hesitate to call us today to set up your fully confidential initial legal consultation. From our office in Orlando, we handle spousal support cases throughout Central Florida, including in Seminole County, Lake County and Orange County.



Steve W. Marsee, P.A.

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