As Senate Bill 718 dealing with alimony reform and child custody reform has passed both houses of the Florida Legislature and seems likely to be signed by Governor Rick Scott, this blog will attempt to explain how various aspects of the bill may impact Florida and Tampa Bay family law cases.
If signed, most changes (including changes to Florida’s supportive relationship laws) will go into effect July 1, 2013.
Currently, Florida law permits a person who has been ordered to pay alimony (called an “obligor”) to seek a modification or termination of his or her alimony order if he or she can prove that the spouse receiving alimony (called the “obligee”) is in a supportive relationship. As the law stands now, even if the obligor can prove that the obligee is in a supportive relationship, a judge has the option, but is not required, to modify an alimony order.
The language of Senate Bill 718 changes the supportive relationship statute as follows (new language is underlined while deleted language is
1.[T]he court shall mayreduce or terminate an award of alimony upon specific written findings by the court that since the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony, a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and another aperson, except upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence by the obligee that his or her long-term need for alimony, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, has not been reduced by the supportive relationship with whom the obligee resides. On the issue of whether alimony should be reduced or terminated under this paragraph, the burden is on the obligor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists.
Essentially, the changes require a judge to reduce or terminate alimony if the judge finds that the obligee is in a supportive relationship. An exception to this requirement exists if the obligee can show that the supportive relationship does not reduce his or her need for alimony (e.g., the person with whom the obligee is in a relationship does not reduce his or her living expenses).
The factors that a judge will look at to determine whether a supportive relationship exists will remain the same:
a. The extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as “my husband” or “my wife,” or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship.b. The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode.c. The extent to which the obligee and the other person have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence.d. The extent to which the obligee or the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part.e. The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.f. The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer.g. Whether the obligee and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value.h. Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.i. Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support.j. Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.k. Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of any legal duty to do so.
You should keep in mind that, if you entered into a settlement agreement which describes an alimony award as “non-modifiable,” then the changes that will be brought about by Senate Bill 718 will likely not apply to you.
If you have questions regarding how the changes may affect your Tampa Bay alimony case and you wish to schedule a consultation with a Tampa Bay alimony attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or by filling out our online form.
Make sure to ask how the private collaborative family law process can keep your alimony case (and your family’s personal and financial information) out of the public court system.