Florida awards of permanent alimony may well be one of the last holdouts among the states in the U.S., as most states have nixed the idea of permanent alimony, barring unusual or extreme circumstances. These changes are coming in response to more and more women joining the workforce and more states updating their laws concerning alimony. Florida has six types of alimony which can be considered during a divorce: permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony, temporary alimony and lump-sum alimony. Regardless of which type of alimony you have been ordered to pay, there may come a time when you feel you are entitled to a modification of the alimony award. In order to obtain such a modification, you will be required to show there has been an unforeseen, unintentional change of circumstances.
In other words, you may not stop working in order to avoid paying alimony. If you can show you have suffered a notable negative financial change, or that the receiving spouse has enjoyed a significant positive financial gain, you may be able to receive a modification of alimony. If the receiving spouse is living with someone—refusing to get married only in order to continue to receive alimony—you may be able to petition the court for a cessation or modification of alimony payments. Whatever your situation, we can help you with your goal of alimony modification. The attorneys at The Law Place are skilled negotiators and experienced divorce attorneys. We have a broad background and years of experience helping people just like you. When an award of alimony no longer makes sense, we can help you in your quest to have that award altered.
How to Achieve a Modification of Alimony
In order to have the alimony you are currently ordered to pay reduced or stopped altogether, your attorney from The Law Place will file a petition which will allow for modification of your current alimony payments, or should you believe you are eligible to stop paying alimony altogether, your attorney will file a Petition for Abatement. Your petition will be filed in court and, depending on the rules of your local court, a modification may resurrect your prior divorce case or you could be required to institute a new action. To reopen your original divorce case, your attorney may use the case number from your original divorce as well as the same style of heading; for a new case, you are petitioning the court for a modification of alimony and your ex is responding to that petition.
You will receive a new case number and will probably pay a filing fee. Your petition may be served on your ex through a process server or through a law enforcement official in your county. When the petition is served, a Return of Service will be issued, providing a record of when your ex-spouse was served. At this point, the receiving spouse has the right to file an answer to your petition or a counter-petition, then your attorney will be required to file an answer to the counter petition, on your behalf. You will be required to produce financial disclosure documents in order to prove your case. You may have to produce bank statements pay stubs, any other proof of income, or notice of a lay-off (if this is your reason for requesting a modification).
False Information Provided By Your Ex During the Divorce
If you are filing for a modification or abatement of alimony based on the fact that your spouse provided false information during the divorce which resulted in the alimony award, you will be required to produce documentation to prove such fraud. For claims of fraud, there is a specific time limit for filing for a modification of alimony. The Florida courts require that in order to obtain a modification of alimony there must be a substantial change in circumstances since the original order of alimony, such change in circumstances was not contemplated during the original proceedings and the change is “sufficient, material, involuntary and permanent in nature.”
Is a Decreased Ability to Pay Sufficient to Warrant a Modification of Alimony?
A decreased ability to pay may justify alimony modification so long as it is not voluntary and it appears the change is more than short-term. In 1992, the Florida Supreme Court held that voluntary retirement on the part of the spouse paying alimony could be considered a change of circumstances which warranted reduction or termination of alimony. While the court did not specifically address the “allowable” age of retirement, they did indicate that retirement prior to age 65 would likely be presumed unreasonable. An improvement of economic situation on the part of the receiving spouse may or may not warrant a modification of alimony.
The circumstances of both parties will be scrutinized in order to determine whether a reduction in alimony is warranted. Suppose the receiving spouse’s income increased significantly, but so, too, did the paying spouse’s income. In such a situation, the court might not agree to a modification. On the other hand if the paying spouse was making $60,000 per year at the time of the divorce while the receiving spouse was making $15,000, yet five years later the paying spouse was still making $60,000 per year while the receiving spouse was bringing in $45,000, this could be reason enough for the courts to approve a modification of alimony award.
Income is not the only factor; gifts, inheritance and lottery winnings may also be considered when determining the outcome of a modification of alimony. Increased need—on its own—may not qualify for an increase in alimony, and expenses related to a subsequent marriage will also not support a modification of alimony. The Law Place attorneys will assess the facts and circumstances of your case, determining whether a petition for modification of alimony is warranted. We can provide the advice you need, while offering you the benefit of our experience, knowledge of Florida law and legal skills.