Can Florida Alimony Payments Be Modified?
Depending on the type of alimony awarded in your divorce, the court may agree to a modification in certain circumstances. You cannot apply to have alimony modified if it was never awarded in the first place or if the award specified it was not eligible for modification.
Alimony may be awarded when a spouse can show there is a need for spousal support due to expenses, income, lifestyle, and other factors, and the other spouse has the ability to pay based on the same set of factors. Alimony awards can be permanent, or for a set duration of time.
Grounds for Modifying Alimony
Before a judge will agree to look at granting a modification to an earlier alimony award, you must qualify for a modification by showing a “substantial change in circumstances.” If you do not meet the qualification requirements, you will not be allowed to open a case for modification. To qualify, you must show there was no way to anticipate the change when the court initially awarded alimony.
The substantial change in circumstances must be permanent, involuntary or unplanned, and make a material difference in one party’s financial situation. Some potential examples can include:
- Involuntary termination of employment
- Long-term unemployment
- Serious health changes
- One spouse passes away
- Medical insurance policy changes
- Disability from work
- Receipt of substantial gift
- Winning the lottery
- Spouse receiving alimony is convicted or accused of fraud related to the spousal support
- Payor retires
- Recipient gets remarried
Previously, someone who wanted to keep receiving alimony payments but was moving forward with a serious relationship would often choose to cohabitate rather than remarry to ensure they don’t lose their alimony payment. Now, thanks to a change in Florida law in 2005, evidence of a new “supportive relationship” can qualify as grounds to reduce or terminate an alimony award.
What Doesn’t Qualify as Substantial Change in Circumstances
There are a variety of things that do not qualify for a modification. You cannot voluntarily quit your job and then claim you can’t pay alimony. You can’t purposely try to get fired either. You cannot get remarried and then claim the expenses from your new marriage are too much. And, alimony awards of bridge-the-gap alimony or lump sum alimony awards cannot be modified.
When there is no alimony awarded, the court cannot modify it because there is nothing to modify. In theory, the court would no longer have jurisdiction once the order indicating no alimony is signed. The only way around this issue would be to have the divorce agreement include “nominal alimony.” This is something to strongly consider when there is a valid claim for alimony, but the other spouse is unable to pay right now. The court may include a really low amount, like $1 a month. It keeps the door for modification open down the line rather than barring it from modifications due to the zero-alimony award.
Retaining a Boca Raton Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about alimony or need to apply for a modification order, it’s important to speak to a skilled Boca Raton family law attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White at 561-391-9943 to schedule a consultation.