Florida Court Discusses Termination of Alimony Due to a Supportive Relationship

It is not uncommon in Florida divorce actions for one party to agree to pay the other alimony. Such payments may be conditional, however. For example, a support agreement may stipulate that if the party receiving alimony enters into a supportive relationship, there may be grounds for terminating alimony. The court must conduct a certain analysis, however, to determine whether a party is in a supportive relationship, as explained in a recent Florida divorce ruling. If you want to end your marriage, it is in your best interest to talk to a Miami divorce attorney about how the decision may impact you financially.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the parties married in 1995 and ended their marriage in 2013 via a final judgment of dissolution of marriage. The judgment incorporated a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA) that mandated the husband’s payment of specified durational alimony to the wife until June 2023. Paragraph 12(d) of the MSA allowed modification or termination of alimony if the wife entered a “supportive relationship” or cohabitated, as defined by Florida Statutes.

Allegedly, in April 2021, the husband filed a petition to modify or terminate alimony, citing paragraph 12(d) and alleging that the wife had a supportive relationship with a man. An evidentiary hearing ensued, after which the trial court terminated the wife’s alimony. The wife then appealed.

Termination of Alimony Due to a Supportive Relationship

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court ruling. In doing so, it clarified the mixed standard of review for section 61.14(1)(b) involved factual findings, statutory interpretation, and application of law. If a supportive relationship is established, the trial court’s decision to reduce or terminate alimony is subject to abuse of discretion review. The court then applied this framework to the case, acknowledging the trial court’s four-step analysis as outlined in Florida case law.

The court found that the trial court appropriately conducted the first two steps by examining the nature of the relationship and determining the existence of a supportive relationship between the wife and the man. The court found competent, substantial evidence supporting this conclusion.

The court critiqued the trial court for neglecting step three, however, which required consideration of relevant economic factors outlined in section 61.08. As a consequence, the court could not assess whether the trial court abused its discretion by terminating alimony without addressing these economic factors. Therefore, the court reversed the termination of alimony and remanded the case for the trial court to make the necessary findings and reconsider whether alimony should be terminated or reduced based on the economic factors.

Talk to a Dedicated Miami Attorney

In most Florida divorce actions, alimony awards will terminate if the party receiving alimony enters into a supportive relationship. If you are concerned about how ending your marriage will impact your finances, it is smart to talk to an attorney. The dedicated Miami family law lawyers of the Law Offices of Sandy T. Fox, P.A. can assess the facts of your case and inform you regarding the steps you can take to protect your interests. You can contact us through our online form or at 800-596-0579 to arrange a conference.

Posted in: and
Published on:

Comments are closed.