Now that Senate Bill 718 on alimony reform has been vetoed by Florida Governor Rick Scott, many Tampa Bay residents are wondering whether there is any way to modify or terminate their alimony obligations. The answer, in many cases, may be yes.
Chapter 61 of the Florida Statutes states that most types of alimony may be modified or terminated when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the receiving spouse’s need for alimony or the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Case law tells us that a “substantial change in circumstances” means a change that was unanticipated at the time the alimony was ordered by the Court, and a change that is permanent, involuntary, and material. Examples of substantial changes in circumstance that may justify upward or downward modification include health issues, long-term unemployment, a big raise, or a large inheritance.
Even if a change in circumstances is voluntary, a modification or reduction of alimony may be granted if the change is a smart and well thought out decision. For example, imagine a scenario where a Husband was an umbrellas salesman at the time he was ordered to pay permanent alimony, but, because of changes in the weather pattern, he has chosen to switch careers and take a position as a salesman of dust busters. Though this position pays much less than the person received at the height of the rainy climate, it is now much more stable with the possibility of long-term advancement. If the now former husband can show that this voluntary reduction in income was prudent, he may still be able to get his alimony obligation reduced or terminated.
Additionally, a judge may reduce or terminate an award of alimony upon finding that the receiving spouse is now in a supportive relationship. Section 61.14(1)(b)(2), Florida Statutes, provides guidelines to determine whether such a relationship exists.
You should understand that there are situations where alimony is not modifiable or able to be terminated. Lump sum alimony is non-modifiable, as are many awards of bridge-the-gap alimony. Additionally, some marital settlement agreements explicitly waive the right to modify alimony.
One last point: A judge will only reduce or terminate alimony if you properly ask for the modification. If you simply stop paying alimony, you may face sanctions, such as paying your former spouse’s attorney’s fees, having your driver’s license suspended, or possibly even spending some time in jail. Consult with a Florida family law attorney to see whether alimony in your case may be modified.
If you are seeking to modify your alimony obligation, and you wish to set up a consultation with a Florida alimony attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., by calling us at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.