Grounds for Modifying Alimony
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered payment from one ex-spouse to the other. In a divorce involving alimony, the court will determine an appropriate amount of support and make a decision regarding the duration of the payments. Sometimes a spouse’s circumstances change after the alimony has been ordered. In that case, the alimony award may be modified. If you believe that your alimony payments are no longer fair, you should contact an experienced family law attorney today.Modification
Florida law provides that alimony may be modified, meaning increased, decreased, or terminated, when an unexpected, involuntary, and substantial change in circumstances occurs. The change must be unexpected, meaning that it was not contemplated at the time of the award of alimony. Changes in circumstances may include things like long-term reductions or increases in income, health problems and disability, retirement, or the payee spouse’s remarriage.
If there was no alimony awarded at the time of the divorce, the court does not have the power to modify that order and later award alimony. Sometimes, a divorcing spouse will seek nominal alimony at the time of the divorce. Nominal alimony is a very small payment, designed to allow the court to adjust the alimony later and award a more significant amount, if needed.
Alimony set by a prenuptial contract may be modified. However, if the contract specifically waives the right to seek modification, the court may not later modify the support award.Loss of Income
The involuntary loss of income may constitute a substantial change in circumstances, and is a common reason to seek modification. To determine whether a modification is warranted, the court will consider the spouses’ relative financial circumstances at the time of the alimony order and at the time of filing the petition for modification.
It is important to note that the loss must be involuntary. A spouse may not purposely decrease income, such as by quitting a job or going part-time without reason, and then seek a modification. Additionally, Florida law does not allow permanent alimony to continue if it results in the payee spouse having a larger income than the payor spouse.Supportive Relationships
Another common reason to modify alimony is if the payee spouse:
- Remarries; or
- Enters into a supportive relationship.
A supportive relationship means a cohabitative relationship similar in nature to a marriage. The spouse seeking the modification must show that the supportive relationship warrants a change in alimony. Courts will consider factors including:
- Whether the payee spouse and the cohabitant have held themselves out as married;
- Whether they have combined their income and assets;
- The extent to which one of them has supported the other;
- The duration of the cohabitation;
- Whether they have purchased property together; and
- Whether they have provided support to each other’s children.
If the court finds that a supportive relationship exists, it may reduce or terminate the alimony award.
Alimony payments greatly affect both spouse’s lives, and whether you are paying or receiving alimony, it is important to make sure the support award is just. If you believe that your alimony award merits modification, please contact West Palm Beach family law attorney William Wallshein today for an initial consultation.