Alimony is the support awarded to a husband or wife simply because they were your husband or wife. This ongoing support ties you to your ex-spouse for years after a divorce but alimony is rarely permanent. How do I modify my alimony after my Florida divorce?
Temporary alimony is an award of alimony that is made before the end of a divorce and and after the filing of the petition of dissolution. Temporary alimony can always be modified for whatever reason the court decides. Temporary alimony is extinguished however when the alimony award is made in the final judgment for divorce.
Alimony ordered in a final judgment may be modified when there is a change in circumstances that is substantial, material, involuntary, and permanent.
So, alimony can always be modified if there has been a change that warrants it and your lawyer can effectively argue to the judge that the change meets the statute, case law, and logic’s requirements.
Reduction in income of the alimony payor is probably the most common reason for modification of alimony. In my experience, it usually has to be about a 20% reduction. The defense to such a petition for modification is always that the reduction in income is voluntary and therefore does not meet the requirement of the change being “involuntary”.
Proving that a reduction in income is involuntary usually requires a narrative that makes sense like, “I put in the same hours but my sales had decreased along with the economy.” Your current paycheck and tax returns will not be enough.
Even if a modification based on income is granted, it is likely to be labelled a “temporary modification” where the alimony payor is required to re-visit the court in the future with his or her pay stubs, income tax returns and proof of good faith.
Alimony can also be modified based on the needs of the alimony recipient having substantially changed. This almost always means the alimony recipient has moved in with a boyfriend of girlfriend. This doesn’t automatically trigger a termination of alimony but, rather, the court “focus should not be so much on the cohabitation as on how the living situation has impacted the former spouse’s financial condition and need for continued support.” Dibartolomeo v. Dibartolomeo, 679 So. 2d 72, 73 (Fla. 4th DCA 1996)
Additionally, there is a new law acknowledging that a “supportive relationship” can be grounds for a modification of alimony but you’d still have to employ the same analysis as above. Fla. Stat. Sec 61.14(1)(b)
Social media has allowed ample evidence of “supportive relationships” that can easily be screen-shotted or subpoenaed. Still, we often use an old fashioned private investigator to record if the new boyfriend or girlfriend is staying the night before asking if they’re paying rent (otherwise, they’d just say “no”).
What if your spouse is using their alimony to support their new boyfriend or girlfriend? That’s clearly not what the alimony is for. Florida courts have held that a moocher-boyfriend is not a “supportive relationship” and the former spouse has to pay for both of them. Murphy v. Murphy, 201 So. 3d 18 (Fla. 3d. DCA 2013)
Alimony is barred from modification in only the rarest of circumstances. If the final judgment for divorce says, “We waive any future modification of alimony” a court is likely to not allow the modification. Additionally, a court can find “special circumstances” where alimony is unmodifiable. Rosario v. Rosario, 945 So. 2d 629 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006)
Beyond mere modification, alimony is allowed to terminate upon death of either party, remarriage of the alimony recipient or, as we discussed earlier, if the alimony recipient enters into a “supportive relationship” short of marriage.
If you elected to receive a lump-sum alimony amount, you will probably be excluded from asking for alimony in the future (as you technically already received it)
If you’d like to modify your alimony award or you’re defending a petition for modification of alimony, contact my Naples, Florida family law office to talk to an experienced divorce lawyer regarding what the best strategy is regarding either goal.