Your Ex-Spouse’s New Partner and Your Florida Alimony Obligation

One of the more frustrating turns of events for individuals ordered to pay alimony is the discovery that the ex-spouse to whom they are making support payments has moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend. In some situations, your ex-spouse’s decision to cohabitate with another person may be valid grounds for modifying or terminating your alimony payments. Whether you succeed in obtaining a modification or termination of your obligation depends largely on the facts of your ex-spouse’s new relationship and, in some cases, which terms you put in your marital settlement agreement. As a recent Central Florida case illustrates, even if you succeed, it is important to keep in mind that there are limits to what the law can do for you.

One way to succeed is to prove that your ex is involved in a “supportive relationship,” as defined by Florida Statutes Section 61.14. That’s what happened in a recent Volusia County case. The ex-husband went to court alleging that his ex-wife, to whom he paid alimony, had entered into a supportive relationship under the statute and that he should be entitled not only to a termination of his obligation to make future alimony payments, but also to have his obligation retroactively terminated going all the way to the date that the ex-wife moved in with her partner. The ex-husband succeeded in proving the existence of a supportive relationship involving the ex-wife, and the trial court retroactively terminated her alimony as the husband had requested.

The ex-wife appealed and won. The appeals court concluded that the trial court made an error when it came to setting the date of retroactive termination. The law only allows you to obtain a termination of your alimony obligation retroactive to the date that you filed your termination request with the trial court, not the date that your ex began cohabitating. For this reason, among others, it is important to act swiftly in seeking the modification or termination of alimony if you believe that your ex has moved in with someone. Keep in mind that the person your ex moves in with may not have to be a romantic partner. A partner in a supportive relationship can cover most non-relatives if both people are sharing expenses or supporting each other financially.

However, if your ex moves in with a family member, you’re not entitled to modification or termination, even if that relative is supporting your ex financially. Also, you’re not entitled to a modification or termination if your ex moves in with someone (or someone moves in with your ex), and the two of them do not share a supportive relationship. A Tampa case from last year demonstrates this point. In that case, the ex-wife, who was receiving alimony, took in a male tenant who shared her 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom townhouse. The tenant paid rent, paid his own bills, and maintained his own separate mailbox. The two did not share expenses, bank accounts, or an intimate relationship. They basically lived completely independent lives except for the occasional shared meal. Although they went on three vacations together, “they paid their own expenses and sought out the companionship of others” during these trips.

The clear separation in the lives of the ex-wife and her male tenant was enough for the 2d District Court of Appeal to decide that the two did not share a supportive relationship under Section 61.14 and were not engaged in the type of cohabitation that would have triggered the cohabitation clause in the couple’s marital settlement agreement.

Alimony disputes can be extremely frustrating, both for the paying spouse and the recipient, in some cases. Regardless of which side of the alimony check you’re on, it’s important to ensure you have knowledgeable legal counsel assisting you to make sure that your alimony is correct and compliant with the law. The experienced South Florida alimony attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. have a long track record of helping clients with issues related to alimony. Contact our diligent and determined attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.

More blog posts:

Marital Settlement Agreement Puts Husband on Hook for Permanent Alimony, Even After Wife Remarries, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Oct. 6, 2014

Wife’s Cohabitation Not a Basis for Modification Due to Alimony Agreement’s Narrow Language, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 19, 2014