In Florida, many marriages end with one party receiving alimony from the other. Alimony is a payment awarded by the court in a divorce settlement and is meant to provide income to a spouse who makes less money. It can help that spouse attend school and work toward financial independence.
Alimony is one of the more contentious parts of a divorce. This is especially true in Florida, which is quite lenient when it comes to alimony. In fact, the state offers six different types of alimony — temporary, bridge the gap, rehabilitative, durational, permanent, periodic, and lump sum.
A person does not necessarily have to pay alimony until the ex-spouse remarries or until they or the ex-spouse dies. Alimony may be paid on a temporary basis or even as a single, lump sum amount.
In a divorce, the judge determines the amount of alimony to be paid and for how long. The alimony amount is based on many factors, including how long the marriage lasted, the standard of living the couple enjoyed while married, and the age and financial resources of each party. However, the payor cannot be left with less net income than the recipient. The details are outlined in the divorce decree.
Is this court-ordered alimony amount set in stone? Not necessarily. Life changes. Even after the judge has issued a final order, it can be modified as needed. The actions that either the payer or recipient take can affect how much alimony is paid and even if the recipient should continue to receive alimony.
What situations can lead to a change in alimony payments? As the paying spouse, could you legally be forced to increase your payments down the road? As a recipient, is it possible that your payments could decrease? The answer to both questions is “yes.” Therefore, if you send or receive alimony payments, there are some things you should keep in mind in terms of modifications.
When can Alimony Change?
The good news is that alimony does not suddenly change on its own. You will not suddenly be billed for extra amounts without your knowledge if you are the payer, and if you are the recipient, you will not suddenly see a smaller paycheck and wonder how you will pay your bills that month.
One party has to take steps to modify the alimony award. Alimony modification involves filling out paperwork, reopening the divorce case, and going to trial. Both parties can hear the case and convince the judge why the alimony should be modified or why it should not.
There are several situations in which the court will agree to change the terms of a divorced couple’s alimony agreement. One of the biggest factors is a change in finances. If the paying spouse wins the lottery or receives a significant raise at work, the recipient can petition the court to increase his or her alimony payments. Likewise, if the recipient gets a better-paying job or comes into a huge sum of money, then the payer can also request to decrease his or her payments, based on these circumstances.
But keep in mind the system works both ways. If the paying spouse loses his or her job or gets hours reduced at work, causing a huge drop in income, then that spouse has the right to petition the court to get payments reduced.
Health issues and disability can also lead to alimony modifications. If the payor suffers an injury or accident and cannot work, then payments may be reduced or even halted during this time. The same applies if the payor retires.
There are also some actions that the recipient can take to cause the court to end alimony payments altogether. For example, if the court discovers that the recipient engaged in fraud in order to continue receiving alimony payments, then the payments would likely end. Also, if the recipient was not married but still in a financially supportive relationship, such as cohabiting with another person, then the court could order the payments to stop. This would depend on factors such as how long the recipient has been in the relationship and how much the partner contributes to expenses.
When can Alimony Not Change?
Alimony cannot be altered in certain situations. For example, alimony cannot change if none was awarded in the first place. Once the divorce has been finalized, a party cannot reopen the case and ask for alimony. Also, alimony cannot be altered if temporary alimony was awarded. This type of alimony has a set end date that cannot be changed.
Alimony cannot be changed if the circumstances are not substantial enough. For example, a gain or loss of income of $100 a month is not enough to warrant a modification. The same goes for an emergency situation, such as an unplanned medical bill or car repair. A small rent increase also would not warrant changes to alimony payments.
Another situation in which alimony cannot be altered is if the payer quits his or her job or purposely gets fired. That spouse would still be on the hook for alimony payments, as alimony can only be changed due to circumstances beyond someone’s control.
Seek Legal Help
Alimony in Florida is based on numerous factors. If you believe that you deserve a higher alimony payment or are not receiving timely payments from your ex-spouse, do not sit in silence and lose out.
Get legal help from Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler. He can assess your situation and fight for your rights. Call (954) 346-6464 today to schedule a consultation.