Third DCA Watch

By October 10, 2012

This week Jason R. Marks comments on the Third District Court of Appeals Decision in Murphy v. Murphy, which was handed down last week.
Last week, the appellate court ruled that Judge Dennis Murphy must continue to pay monthly alimony payments to his ex-wife, despite the fact that the former wife is living with a boyfriend and paying the majority of the couple’s expenses.
The Court reversed the trial court’s downward modification of alimony, finding that no supportive relationship existed between Ms. Murphy and her live-in boyfriend because the boyfriend did not contribute economic support to Ms. Murphy.

The Court focused on Section 61.14(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes, which defines “supportive relationship” and concluded that because Ms. Murphy’s boyfriend did not provide any economic support, no downward modification of alimony was permitted.
No disrespect to Judge Schwartz, but I believe he got it wrong on this one and that Judge Rothenberg’s dissent is the more reasoned approach in light of today’s current trends in alimony.
I do not believe our legislature intended through the creation of 61.14 to allow a recipient spouse to use the support of their former spouse which is used to, even indirectly, support the former spouses significant other.  I believe that there should not be some expectation imposed on the significant other to contribute to the support of the recipient spouse, either directly financially or that support be imputed in a circumstance where there is no legitimate basis for the significant other not to provide support.
Judge Rothenberg’s found that Ms. Murphy’s boyfriend provided support to the former wife in the form of performing services such as pool cleaning, lawn maintenance and other household chores, which reduce Ms. Murphy’s overall expenses.
Hopefully this case will spurn our legislature to “clean up” the ambiguities in our current 61.14’s  definition of “supportive relationship” as part of the overall  comprehensive alimony reform currently being discussed at the legislative level.