A Third District Court of Appeal case from earlier this month marked a reversal of course for that court with regard to the rules regarding cohabitating couples and alimony modification. In the court’s latest ruling, it decided that, even though an ex-wife received virtually no financial support from her cohabitating boyfriend, a trial court was nevertheless justified in using that relationship as the basis for lowering the ex-husband’s monthly alimony obligation.
The case centered upon the aftermath of a divorce following which the ex-husband had paid his ex-wife alimony since the couple’s divorce in 2005. In 2009, the ex-wife boyfriend moved in with her. The ex-husband sought to reduce his alimony based upon the cohabitation relationship, and the trial court dropped his alimony obligation from $4,200 per month to $3,500.
The ex-wife appealed. The Third DCA originally agreed with the wife, but reconsidered its opinion and upheld the trial court ruling. The court ultimately decided that the statutes were clear in allowing the trial court to make the reduction based upon the change in circumstances brought about by the cohabitation.
The crux of the case regarded whether or not the ex-wife and the boyfriend were involved in a “supportive relationship” within the context of Section 61.14(1)(b) of the Florida Statutes. The ex-wife contended that, because the boyfriend contributed nothing of financial value to the household, the relationship did not qualify and the ex-husband had no grounds for a modification.
The ex-husband argued, and the court agreed, that a supportive relationship could exist either whether the cohabitating third party contributes financially to the ex-spouse or the ex-spouse financially supports the cohabitating third party. In fact, the court wrote, the statute requires courts to factor in the “economic support and other benefits the [ex-spouse] has conferred upon the third party cohabitant. In this case, the ex-wife, although not working, had the financial means to provide the boyfriend with a home, including a pool, free utilities, an extra bedroom to allow him to enjoy his visitation rights with his children, and money to purchase a car.
The ruling is a boon for some former spouses who felt hamstrung by the “financially beneficial cohabitation” rule, or the notion that they may seek reduction in their alimony obligation only if the newly moved-in paramour is financially supporting the ex-spouse. In actuality, the court’s ruling clarifies that the statute encompasses financial support flowing to or from the alimony recipient, which likely encompasses a significant portion of cohabitating couples.
Florida’s laws create only a limited number of bases for modifying one’s alimony obligations. Understanding these laws can be essential to ensuring that you are not overpaying your ex-spouse. To determine if you have a right to seek a reduction in your alimony obligation, contact the South Florida family law attorneys of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. They have helped people throughout the Fort Lauderdale and Miami-Dade areas for many years, dealing both with divorces, alimony and alimony modification. Contact us online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Can You Modify Alimony in Florida?, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 28, 2013
Text Message Reveals New Details on Future of Florida’s Alimony Bill, Fort Lauderdale Divorce Lawyer Blog, Aug. 8, 2013