Alimony and Cohabitation in Florida

April 1, 2015

In Florida, four types of  alimony are available after a divorce has been finalized. Bridge-the-gap alimony is designed to cover short-term needs to facilitate the transition to single life. Rehabilitative alimony helps a spouse become self-sufficient through education, vocational training, or work experience. Durational alimony gives economic assistance for a set period of time and is used when more temporary forms of alimony are insufficient. Permanent alimony lets a spouse maintain the standard of living established during the marriage and has no end date.

Termination and Modification of Alimony

Previously, Florida law stated that alimony could only be modified or terminated if one spouse died, the payee spouse remarried, or there was a substantial change in circumstances regarding either the payer spouse’s ability to pay or the payee spouse’s need. However, the law changed in 2005 to permit a termination of alimony when the payee spouse enters a cohabitative supportive relationship. The change was prompted by an  ex-wife and her live-in boyfriend, who invited fifty guests to Las Vegas to a “Wedding Weekend.” The couple exchanged rings and vows beneath a chuppah, a Jewish wedding canopy, and followed the ceremony with a reception. However, there was no marriage certificate, and because it was not a legal marriage, a judge ruled that the woman’s ex-husband still had to pay $5,000 per month in alimony.

Supportive Relationship

The current law provides that alimony may be terminated upon a court’s written findings that a supportive relationship exists. This means that an ex-spouse seeking to terminate alimony does not have to prove a change in finances if he or she can prove that the payee spouse has entered a supportive relationship.

A supportive relationship requires three things:

  • That an ex-spouse begin cohabitating with another person,
  • Which person is not related to the spouse, either by blood or by marriage, and
  • That the cohabitating parties be financially interdependent.

Thus, a supportive relationship will usually occur when a person moves in with a girlfriend or boyfriend. However, a conjugal relationship is not required, so long as the relationship is supportive. Thus, moving in with a platonic friend, if the relationship satisfies the other requirements, may be a supportive relationship. But if the cohabiting parties keep their finances completely separate and do not support one another, the relationship will not be considered supportive, even if it is romantic.

Proving the Supportive Relationship

The spouse seeking to terminate alimony must prove the supportive relationship in court—he or she cannot simply cease payments. The relationship must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which means that the spouse must show that it is more likely than not that the relationship exists, or that 51% of the evidence is in his or her favor.

The court must then make a written finding that the supportive relationship exists. When determining whether a supportive relationship exists, courts are to consider:

  • Whether the couple hold themselves out as married, such as by using the same last name, referring to each other as husband and wife, using a common mailing address, etc.
  • The length of time during which the couple has lived together,
  • The extent to which the couple has become financially interdependent, such as by combining assets or income,
  • The extent to which the ex-spouse supports the other person, or vice versa,
  • The extent to which the ex-spouse or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s employer,
  • Whether the couple has worked together to create anything of value or increase an asset’s value,
  • Whether the couple has purchased real or personal property together,
  • Whether the couple has an agreement, express or implied, regarding property sharing or support, and
  • Whether the ex-spouse or the other person has supported the other’s children, regardless of any legal obligation.

The court may then order that alimony be terminated.

If you believe that your current alimony arrangement is unjust, you may be able to have it modified or terminated. The services of a dedicated family law attorney can help you set forth your best case to the court. Please contact  West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.