Alimony Modification in a Florida Divorce
After a divorce is finalized, there is a strong likelihood that professional, personal and/or financial circumstances may change. This often requires a change in the alimony award, which may be increased or decreased. If you are trying to modify your alimony orders, contact the alimony lawyers at Tobaygo Law in Sarasota, FL.
Florida’s Alimony Modification Statute
In 2009-2010, the state of Florida made adjustments to the alimony statute. For those interested, the current governing statute can be found here. This governing document has specific categories of alimony, each with their own restrictions for modification of spousal support. While most actions for alimony modifications are brought by the paying spouse requesting to reduce their obligation, an increasing number of spousal support modification petitions are being filed by the receiving spouse to increase their alimony amount.
Can Alimony Be Modified?
The easiest way to understand the statute is to divide it into the types of alimony it allows, followed by a discussion of how each type may (or may not) be modified. The types of alimony include:
- Bridge-the-Gap Alimony
- Rehabilitative Alimony
- Durational Alimony
- Permanent Alimony
"Bridge-the-Gap" alimony is designed to make the transition from married to single life easier. Because it aims to support a former spouse by helping him/her resettle, it is usually established for no longer than two years. To be valid, “Bridge-the-Gap” alimonies must be extremely specific and often involves thorough investigation.
The "Bridge-the-Gap" alimony is never eligible for modification.
Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to the "rehabilitate" or the formerly non-working (unemployed/homemaking) spouse. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to allow the receiving spouse to establish the capacity of self support. In other terms, the spouse is rehabilitated, and now able to be self-sufficient. The structure of rehabilitative alimony makes permanent and/or durational alimony impossible.
Rehabilitative alimony can either be for redevelopment of previous job skills or for new training. No matter the purpose of rehabilitative alimony, the party asking for rehabilitative alimony must present a written "rehabilitative plan" to the court. This document should be detailed and specific, addressing and outlining how the spouse will benefit from rehabilitative alimony, how the funds will be used, and the specific goals that the spouse may have in order to become self-sufficient.
Modifying Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony can be modified based on a "substantial change in circumstances" or "noncompliance with the rehabilitative plan". This means that if something has changed dramatically since the final judgment, and such change was unexpected at the time of the final judgment. Or, the spouse receiving the rehabilitative alimony may not be using the funds appropriately for his/her educational and/or retraining. As a result, the award can be reduced or eliminated altogether.
Durational alimony is a reward that is given for a specific period of time (as opposed to permanent alimony).
Modifying Durational Alimony
As with rehabilitative alimony, a substantial change in circumstances (unforeseen loss of a job, disability, the receiving spouse winning the lottery, etc.) justifies a modification or change. A key distinction of durational alimony in Florida is that it can be modified by amount (as opposed to duration). To illustrate, if you have a 10 year durational alimony award at $500 per month, you can reduce the monthly payment amount to $1. However, you will still be required to pay $1 per month for 10 years.
Florida’s alimony statute does give some leeway for modifying the length of durational alimony, but it requires "exceptional circumstances.” To be frank, “exceptional circumstances” usually translates into “highly unlikely.”
Permanent alimony is the easiest form of alimony to modify in courts. As its name implies, permanent alimony is usually awarded for the full life of the parties, or at least until until the receiving party remarries.
Modifying Permanent Alimony
The Florida Statute for permanent alimony states that the traditional "substantial change in circumstances" grounds for modification applies. It also adds that permanent alimony can be awarded if the other spouse has entered into a supportive relationship.
If you have an alimony award that needs to be modified, or have been served with a petition for modification of alimony, you should contact an experienced alimony lawyer.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Modify Support?
Modifying alimony agreements in Sarasota, FL, can be a complex, technical and difficult process. Like all legally binding documents, alimony agreements require keen research, through investigation, and adherence to tight and specific deadlines. Do not attempt to modify your alimony arrangement alone. Instead, contact a spousal support attorney who can provide sound advice and knowledgeable counsel.
Experienced alimony attorneys at Tobaygo Law can assist you during this significant period in your life. You deserve to transition into a peaceful and secure lifestyle after a divorce. Allow our professionals to help you draft the terms and conditions for your alimony agreement so that it adapts to your lifestyle.
Contact us today for a free initial consultation.