MODIFICATION AND TERMINATION OF ALIMONY AWARDS IN FLORIDA
Alimony (also called “spousal support”) may be awarded to a divorced husband or wife when the court concludes that:
- One spouse was dependent upon his or her partner for support during the marriage and will require a source of income in addition to the amount, if any, he or she may otherwise have available through his or her own employment or other sources and
- The other spouse has the ability to pay.
Depending on the nature of the award, the paying spouse’s obligation may last anywhere between a few months and many years.
Your or your former spouse’s financial circumstances may of course change in the months and years following your divorce. When they do, whether you are paying or receiving alimony, you may wonder whether it is possible to ask a court to “modify” its original alimony award. Depending upon your specific circumstances, the court may order an increase or decrease in the amount of each payment as well as shorten or extend the period of payment.
Florida’s four main types of alimony serve different purposes, each with a corresponding shorter or longer duration. In part, the court’s ability to make one or more of these changes will depend upon the type of alimony awarded.
REMARRIAGE AND COHABITATION
If you have been ordered to pay alimony, does your obligation terminate if your former spouse remarries or begins living with another person?
According to Florida legislation that took effect on January 1, 2011, a bridge-the-gap, durational or permanent alimony obligation automatically ends upon the remarriage of the recipient. Remarriage does not automatically terminate a rehabilitative alimony award, though it is one factor the court will look when it is asked to terminate based on changed circumstances.
An alimony order generally will not be terminated solely on the basis that a former spouse is cohabiting with another person, unless that was an express condition of the parties’ marital settlement agreement. In that case, the paying spouse must still file a petition seeking to terminate his or her alimony obligation, and must provide admissible evidence of the cohabitation.
The 2011 legislation mentioned above also allows a court to reduce or terminate a permanent alimony obligation if, since the time the original alimony award was made, the recipient has commenced residing in a permanent “supportive relationship” with another person to whom he or she is not related. Once again, the spouse obliged to pay must petition the court for a modification or termination of his or her obligation, and he or she must establish to the court’s reasonable satisfaction that such a relationship exists between the recipient spouse and a third person.
In making this decision, the court is obliged to look at all relevant factors, including (but not limited to):
- Whether the couple have held themselves out as being married by, for example, using the same last name, using a common mailing address or referring to each other as “my husband” or “my wife”.
- The length of time the couple has resided together
- The extent to which the couple have incurred joint debt or have pooled assets
- Whether the couple has purchased real or personal property in joint names.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPERIENCED LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Whether you wish to seek a change in alimony payments you make or receive or have learned your former spouse intends to do so, you need the advice of an experienced and aggressive Florida family law attorney. With offices in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale, the lawyers at Orner Law, LLC have over 50 years of experience representing clients throughout South Florida. Call us today for your initial consultation with an attorney at our firm.
Change is a natural part of life. If you would like more information about alimony or any other family law issue, please contact Orner Law, LLC today.