Articles Posted in Modification (Divorce/Alimony)

Florida law allows courts to order parties to pay alimony in divorce actions. Generally, the courts will take multiple things into consideration when determining what constitutes an appropriate alimony award. As such, as explained in a recent Florida opinion, a party that wishes to modify an alimony order usually must demonstrate that there has been a significant change since the order was issued in order to show the modification was warranted. If you need help with an alimony dispute, it is in your best interest to consult a Miami divorce attorney to evaluate your options.

History of the Case

It is reported that in 2019, the trial court issued a final judgment of dissolution, which included an unequal distribution of marital assets favoring the wife and nominal alimony awarded to her based on the husband’s purported lack of ability to pay. In 2020, the wife filed a petition seeking modification of the alimony arrangement, alleging that the husband had not made genuine efforts to secure comparable income since the divorce despite having significant earning potential in banking.

Allegedly, however, the wife didn’t assert any substantial and unanticipated changes in circumstances since the initial judgment. Further, during the subsequent evidentiary hearing, the wife failed to present evidence regarding the former husband’s ability to pay or available employment opportunities in his field. The husband argued that his financial situation hadn’t changed and that the modification standard wasn’t met. He provided evidence of operating a hardware store franchise, which incurred losses, and testified to his inability to find employment in banking due to technological advancements and personal factors. Despite this, the trial court granted the wife’s petition, increasing the husband’s alimony payments. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›

Florida law permits the courts to grant alimony in certain divorce actions. Alimony awards are based, in part, on the party’s income, assets, and needs. As such, if a party’s financial status changes after the court issues an order granting alimony, the party may seek a modification. As discussed in a recent Florida ruling, modifications will only be granted in certain scenarios, and if a court denies a request for a modification, it does not have to set forth factual findings in support of its ruling. If you want to learn more about your rights with regard to alimony, it is smart to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the husband and the wife divorced in 2003 after a marriage that lasted over 22 years. The Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage incorporated the parties’ marital settlement agreement, which required the husband to pay the wife permanent periodic alimony of $750 bi-weekly. More than fourteen years after the divorce, the husband filed an Amended Supplemental Petition to eliminate or reduce the alimony payments.

Reportedly, during the trial on the husband’s petition, he abandoned his claim that his ability to pay alimony had diminished. Instead, he sought a reduction because the wife’s income had increased. The husband acknowledged income earned as a full-time college professor and his pension. In contrast, the wife testified that her standard of living had declined significantly, stating she was driving a 21-year-old car, residing with her adult daughter, and struggling to make ends meet. The court denied the husband’s petition, and he appealed. Continue reading ›

Florida law permits parties to submit proposed orders in family law proceedings. The courts rarely adopt such orders as is, however, but instead will exercise their own judgment as to what constitutes an appropriate ruling. If a court does adopt a proposed order verbatim, it must demonstrate that it exercised independent judgment in doing so. Otherwise, the order may be vacated, as demonstrated in a recent ruling issued in a Florida divorce action. If you intend to end your marriage, it is wise to talk to a Miami divorce lawyer about your options.

Procedural Background

It is reported that the parties divorced. After the trial court entered a final judgment, the mother moved for child support determination and retroactive support. The trial court requested the parties to submit proposed orders, and it ultimately adopted the father’s proposed order verbatim. The mother argues that the court’s adoption of the father’s order without independent decision-making constituted an error.

Verbatim Adoption of Proposed Orders in Family Law Cases

On appeal, the court noted that the lack of a transcript from the evidentiary hearing complicated its review. It stated, however, that both parties agreed that the trial court did not announce its ruling and requested proposed orders from them. The order entered by the court matched the father’s submission, including conflicting paragraphs. The court signed the order just one business day after receiving the father’s proposed order, leaving no apparent opportunity for the mother to raise objections before the court’s decision. Continue reading ›

Florida law permits parties to seek alimony in divorce actions. The courts will only grant alimony if they deem it necessary under the circumstances. In other words, the courts must typically find that the divorce will cause a party to suffer financial hardship in order to grant them alimony. Thus, if circumstances change, it may warrant a reduction or elimination of an alimony award, like when a party receives financial support from someone with whom they are romantically involved. Recently, a Florida court discussed what constitutes a supportive relationship in a matter in which it reversed a trial court ruling denying a husband’s request to modify alimony. If you need assistance protecting your interests in a divorce action, it is smart to meet with a Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

The History of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife married in 1975; 20 years later, they divorced. Pursuant to the final judgment of dissolution, the husband was required to make permanent alimony payments to the wife on a weekly basis. The husband petitioned the court for an alimony modification in 2020, arguing that the wife was in a supportive relationship and no longer required alimony.

Allegedly, the trial court held a bench trial on the petition. During the trial, evidence was produced showing that the wife had been living with her boyfriend for fourteen years and had jointly purchased a home with him. Although they did not share bank accounts, they did share expenses. The trial court still found that the wife was not in a supportive relationship and needed alimony, however, and that the husband could pay and, therefore, denied the husband’s petition. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›

In many marriages, one spouse will earn a far greater income than the other. If a couple with disparate incomes subsequently divorces, the lesser-earning party will often request spousal support. In determining whether to grant such support, the courts will assess not only the requesting party’s need but also the responding party’s ability to pay. Once a court issues an order directing a party to pay alimony, it generally is not subject to modification absent evidence of a material and enduring change in circumstances. The change must be involuntary as well, as discussed in a recent Florida case in which the court denied the husband’s request for modification of a permanent spousal support obligation. If you or your spouse intend to end your marriage and you want to learn more about the economic impact of the decision, it is in your best interest to speak with a Miami divorce attorney.

Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is alleged that the husband and the wife were married for twenty-eight years before divorcing in 2014. During the divorce action, the parties agreed that the husband would pay the wife permanent spousal support in the amount of $1,000 each month. When they made the agreement, the husband worked as a mechanical millwright.

Reportedly, six years after the divorce, the husband left his job. He then filed a petition to modify or terminate his spousal support obligation on the grounds that he developed a disability and could not perform his job requirements, causing a significant decrease in pay. The court held a hearing after which it determined that the husband failed to prove he had a disability and that his decision not to work was voluntary and would not support a request for a modification. The husband appealed. Continue reading ›

While courts typically conducted family law hearings in person prior to 2020, since the COVID-19 pandemic, many proceedings have been held via video-teleconferencing. Regardless of whether hearings are conducted in person or over the internet, parties impacted by such hearings have certain rights, and if the court violates their rights, any rulings issued during the proceeding may be reversed. This was demonstrated recently in a Florida opinion issued in a divorce case in which the court ruled that the trial court infringed on the wife’s due process rights by ruling on matters in her absence. If you or your spouse wish to end your marriage, it is important to understand your rights and obligations, and you should talk to a Miami divorce attorney promptly.

Facts of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife married in 2002 and had two minor children. They subsequently divorced, and in 2016, the trial court entered a final judgment dissolving their marriage. The trial court also appointed a parenting coordinator and guardian ad litem to help resolve other issues. The parties later filed multiple post-dissolution motions, seeking enforcement of the final judgment, contempt, and psychological evaluations.

Allegedly, the court scheduled a hearing for June 2021 to address certain financial issues. The court conducted the hearing over Zoom and, prior to commencing, confirmed it would only cover the issues previously indicated. The trial court stated it was going to order the wife to pay her share of the children’s tuition, after which she logged off. She logged back on ten minutes later, only to log off again when the court restated its intent. The court later ordered the wife to pay the husband the cost of the parenting coordinator’s fees in the wife’s absence. The wife appealed. Continue reading ›

Divorce can leave one party in a precarious financial situation. In many divorces, then, a person will seek alimony from their spouse. In evaluating whether alimony is warranted, the courts will look at not only if the party seeking alimony can demonstrate their need but also if the other party has the ability to pay. If either party’s economic circumstances change after a court enters an order granting alimony, the court may grant a modification. Recently, a Florida court discussed the factors considered in determining whether to terminate alimony in a case in which it upheld the trial court’s ruling. If you are considering ending your marriage and want to learn more about alimony, it is smart to meet with an experienced Miami divorce attorney.

Background of the Case

It is reported that the husband and wife divorced in 2008. Their marital settlement agreement was incorporated into the final judgment of divorce. Among other things, the agreement dictated that the husband was to pay the wife $3,000 in alimony per month until the wife remarried, the husband reached the age of 65, or either party died. It stated that the obligation could be modified, but an increase in the wife’s income did not constitute grounds for a modification.

Allegedly, the husband filed a petition for modification in 2016 after he lost his job. The wife filed a motion for enforcement and contempt, as the husband had ceased paying alimony when he was terminated. There was no activity in the case until 2019, when the wife filed a second motion. The husband then filed a second petition for modification or termination. The case proceeded to trial, after which the court found that the husband had demonstrated a substantial and material change in circumstances and suspended his obligation until his ability to pay was restored. The wife then appealed. Continue reading ›

There are different types of alimony the Florida courts can award in divorce proceedings, including permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is not as permanent as the name suggests but can be adjusted if a court finds that a modification is warranted. The court will only grant a modification if there is evidence that it is necessary due to a change in circumstances that is both material and substantial, however, as demonstrated in a recent Florida case. If you have questions regarding alimony or the financial ramifications of divorce, it is smart to confer with a knowledgeable Miami divorce attorney as soon as possible.

The Facts of the Case

It is reported that the wife filed a petition to modify the periodic payment of permanent alimony awarded to the husband via a marital settlement agreement that was adopted by the trial court as part of the parties’ divorce judgment. Specifically, she requested that the court impute income to the husband based on the fact that he was eligible to receive Social Security benefits, even though he had not applied for such benefits. The court denied her petition, finding that she failed to adequately prove that there had been a material and substantial change in either her or the husband’s circumstances that warranted a modification. The wife then appealed.

Grounds for Modifying Alimony Awards

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it stated that pursuant to established case law, a trial court cannot impute the value of Social Security benefits that a person is eligible to receive but has not yet applied for as income to a person if they offer evidence showing that their decision to defer the benefits is merely a prudent investment strategy, as their benefits will increase if they do not take them until a later date. Continue reading ›

While marital settlement agreements (MSAs) are unique in some ways, they are also a lot like any other contract in many ways. As you progress toward a final agreement, there are several checkboxes that must be checked. Does the agreement include everything you must have? Does the agreement contain none of the terms that you consider a “deal-breaker?” If yes, then you have the framework of a potentially workable agreement. Doing this, though, means taking ultimate care because, whatever happens later, you’ll still be bound by the terms of the MSA you signed. To make sure the MSA you’re signing is an MSA that is truly fair, get the legal representation you need from the right South Florida divorce attorney.

As an illustration of what we mean, there’s the recent case of M.J. and B.J. from the Tampa Bay area. The couple divorced after 26 years of marriage. Generally, in cases decided by a judge, a marriage of 26 years qualifies as a “long-term” marriage and the spouse who receives alimony is entitled to receive permanent alimony.

This husband avoided that outcome by working out an MSA with his wife that included an alimony provision. The agreement said that the husband would pay the wife, who was 54 years old at the time of the MSA’s signing, durational alimony of $4,500 per month for eight years. The agreement also stated that the duration of the alimony could not be changed later through a modification action. The contract said nothing about the wife getting a job during those eight years.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many ways, including financially. Some may be struggling to keep their homes, while others may be struggling to feed their families. Some of those who have been thrown into dire financial straits here in Florida are people who have alimony obligations. If that’s you, the worst thing you can do is sit idly by and do nothing as you fall behind on your alimony. Instead, take action right away to get in touch with an experienced South Florida family law attorney and begin taking the actions that the law lets you take.

Even as Florida has re-opened most of its businesses, problems remain. Late last month, the government once again shuttered all bars, according to a NBC Miami report. You can imagine then, if you’re the proprietor of a popular bar in Fort Lauderdale Beach (from which you derive most of your income) and you’re also a divorced spouse who owes a monthly alimony payment, the re-closure of all bars in the Sunshine State is a source of major stress for you.

The law does still give you options, though. To get your alimony payments lowered, you will have to clear several legal hurdles. The first thing you absolutely must do is prove that you have a change of circumstances. Furthermore, that change has to be both (1) substantial and (2) something that could not have been anticipated when alimony was litigated (or set via a mutual agreement.) In other words, if you’re 63 years old when you sign your alimony agreement, you may not be able to turn around at age 65 and get a downward modification of alimony based on your retirement (and the reduction in income it created.)

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