Court Discusses Alimony Modifications Under Florida Law

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.

Grounds for Terminating Alimony

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling to the extent that it terminated the husband’s alimony obligation for the two months before he filed his petition for modification and declined to order him to pay interest on the payments he missed during that time. In doing so, it explained that under Florida law, it is clear that while a trial court has the ability to modify alimony, it cannot change obligations due prior to the petition.

The court also ruled that the trial court erred by using the parties’ gross rather than net income when making its determination to terminate alimony; however, it found the error to be harmless for the years 2016 to 2019. It was not a harmless error for 2020, though. As such, the court remanded the matter to the trial court to assess whether the husband was entitled to a termination of alimony for that time or whether a mere reduction was appropriate.

Confer with a Skilled Miami Attorney

Alimony is appropriate in some divorce matters, but if circumstances change, the court may terminate or modify alimony. If you need assistance with a divorce matter, it is prudent to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The skilled Miami lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can inform you of your rights and help you to seek a favorable result. Our office is in Aventura, and we frequently represent people in divorce cases in Miami. You can reach us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to set up a meeting.