Can I Modify My Alimony?
Under Florida law, alimony may be modifiable. The modification may be done for both the amount and the duration, or just one. The first step in determining if your alimony is modifiable is to read the settlement agreement. The agreement's language will control. For example, during settlement negotiations, a smart lawyer representing the client who is receiving alimony will ask that the language say “non-modifiable.” This means that the alimony will have a difficult time getting changed.
Additionally, the agreement could label the alimony as “bridge-the-gap” alimony. Under Florida Statute §61.08, this type of alimony is not modifiable and cannot exceed two years. If the alimony is labeled bridge-the-gap alimony or the agreement says non-modifiable, we are not likely to succeed in getting your alimony modified.
How Can I Modify My Alimony?
Now that we have reviewed the settlement agreement and determined that the language does not block us from seeking a modification, the next question is how to modify your alimony. Under Florida Statute §61.14, the spouse seeking modification must establish that there has been a substantial change of circumstances that was unexpected and involuntary. This change of circumstance has affected the ability to pay alimony or has affected the other spouse's need for alimony.
What Is Considered a Substantial Change in Circumstances?
A substantial change of circumstance is the cornerstone of a successful modification or a successful defense to a modification. You will see this wording again in modifications for child custody and child support. Essentially, everyone experiences changes in their life. Children are born, children grow, people start new jobs, get fired from jobs, get married, get divorced, etc. These are all expected. However, a substantial change occurs when it is permanent, involuntary, and material. Material means that the change affects the alimony. Some examples include unexpectedly losing employment, a health crisis, the spouse receiving alimony gets remarried, receiving an inheritance, and retirement is just a few examples.
What if my former spouse is living with a new partner?
Most people assume that as long as they don't get remarried, they can keep getting alimony. This is especially true for former spouses that receive permanent alimony. The mistaken belief is never to get remarried, so the money keeps flowing. A supportive relationship is then created when
This was always a loophole in the alimony law. That loophole is closed. Florida has a “supportive relationship” section in the law that terminates the alimony even if the former spouse did not get remarried. This makes sense because alimony is all about need and ability. If a former spouse is living with a new partner, then their “need” for alimony decreases or goes away. You cannot receive alimony unless you prove that you need alimony. So Florida did away with the loophole.
Can I Terminate My Alimony Instead of Modifying?
Termination is permissible so long as you prove that your former spouse does not have the need for alimony, or you no longer have the ability to pay. The need part can be established by proving that the former spouse now earns sufficient income to support themselves without the alimony. As mentioned above, the former spouse is in a supportive relationship. Those are some examples of terminating alimony based on need. To terminate based on ability, you will need to show the court that your income loss was involuntary. In other words, you cannot create your firing, and you cannot purposely work somewhere that pays you less income than when you were married. For example, an attorney should not be working as a waiter to prove that they cannot afford to pay alimony.
It is always a smart investment to have an experienced attorney review your situation and advise you appropriately on a strategic course forward.
If you have questions about modifying or terminating your alimony, we invite you to contact us to schedule a consultation with an experienced Jacksonville divorce lawyer. At Florida Divorce Law Group, we practice family law throughout Florida, and we have consultation offices in Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami. We also have Zoom video meetings available, and of course phone consultations.