Law Office of Steven R. Brenners

When Can Alimony Or Spousal Support Be Modified?

In order to modify any existing court order regarding family matters, there has to be a permanent, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances. In the state of Florida, if a spouse is receiving spousal support while also engaging in what the Florida statute calls a supportive relationship, then there may be grounds for the modification of alimony. For example, if a husband is receiving alimony, and he moves in with an unrelated female whom he is supporting or who is supporting him, then that would be grounds for the modification or termination of alimony. In the past, alimony would normally terminate only by remarriage.

Generally speaking, if you omit the supportive relationship statute, alimony could be modified again on a permanent, substantial, and unanticipated change of circumstance. All of those conditions are necessary. Permanent doesn’t necessarily mean forever, but it is defined by the statute as a change that has occurred for over one year. For example, if a paying spouse loses her job, she shouldn’t immediately expect a termination of the alimony payments for which she is responsible. Instead, we would need to see that her job loss is permanent. In addition, a change in income has to be considered substantial in order to serve as grounds for alimony modification or termination. An income that drops from $200,000 a year to $190,000 a year may not be considered a substantial change.

When you enter into an agreement, any anticipated future changes in your life are not grounds for modification. This is because the changes must not only be permanent and substantial, but also unanticipated. For example, if a spouse has a secondary, temporary part-time job that they anticipate terminating within a year, doing so cannot be used as grounds for modification of alimony. This is because the change was anticipated; they knew that it was a temporary job.

What Recourse Do I Have If My Spouse Fails To Pay Alimony Or Spousal Support?

If a spouse fails to make court-ordered alimony payments, then the receiving spouse has a right to go back to the court to enforce the order for alimony. Generally, we would file a motion for enforcements and contempt. We would ask the court to enforce the existing court order, as well as locate the paying spouse who has failed to make the payments. The enforcement part is straightforward; enforce the order for alimony to be paid each month. Contempt is a much more complicated issue because you have to demonstrate that the paying spouse has the present ability to make the payments. If a paying spouse has the present ability to pay but simply refuses to do so, they would be considered in contempt of court. Being in contempt of court can lead to serious sanctions including incarceration or imprisonment. However, these types of sanctions can only be granted once we prove that the paying spouse has the ability to pay. Since there is a legal assumption that the paying spouse has the ability to pay, it is the paying spouse’s obligation to show that he or she does not have the ability to pay. In other words, the paying spouse has the burden of proof. Once the paying spouse has proven that he or she does not have the ability to pay, then the burden of proof would shift to the receiving spouse. If the receiving spouse can prove that the paying spouse indeed has the ability to make payments, the court can find the paying spouse in contempt of court.

Additional Information Regarding Spousal Support Or Alimony In Florida

There are a few things that are important to discuss. First, not every divorce leads to alimony. It’s not unusual for a potential client to walk into the office and say, “Hey, I’ve been married for all these years, so I am entitled to alimony.” This is not necessarily true. The entitlement to alimony is based upon statutory factors and is best determined by getting advice from an experienced lawyer who can advise you- based on your particular circumstance- as to whether or not you have rights to receive alimony.

As previously mentioned, the alimony laws in the state of Florida are in a state of flux right now. For the last several years, the legislature in the state of Florida has been passing and attempting to reform alimony laws. For one reason or another, they have not been signed by the governor. One reform that we can be looking forward to is a mathematical formula to calculate alimony. The formula will be based upon the respective incomes of the parties and the length of the marriage. Right now, the award of alimony is more of an art than it is a science.

In the event that an agreement cannot be reached between two parties, a judge will make a determination that one party has the ability to pay alimony, while the other party has a need to receive alimony. Then, the court will determine the amount of alimony to be paid, as well as the length of time that the alimony will be paid. The legislature is trying to come up with a new statute that will take the guess-work out of this process. In determining child support, we use formulas based on the income of the parties, the number of children, and certain expenses. It’s a scientific, mathematical formula, and they are trying to accomplish the same thing for the determination of alimony.

The legislature is also attempting to get rid of permanent alimony. Anyone who is seeking a divorce should definitely speak with an informed, experienced lawyer in order to understand the current state of the law regarding alimony, and how it might be changed in the future.

For more information on Modification Of Spousal Support, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (954) 755-0126 today.

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