In today’s “gig” economy, fewer and fewer people are receiving incomes solely through salaried positions that pay steady earnings every week or every two weeks. Whether you’re a self-employed professional, someone who works in commissioned sales or an Uber driver, you know what it means to have an income that fluctuates.
If you’re also someone who owes alimony in Florida, you may wonder what these fluctuations mean to your alimony obligation. As a recent case highlighted, there are situations where an income change may entitle you to obtain a reduction (or even an elimination) of your alimony obligation. If you think your income changes have placed you in that position, be sure to contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale alimony attorney right away to discuss your potential case for alimony modification.
In that recent case, C.M.S. was a professional who owned her own real estate title and escrow business and also was an ex-wife who owed an alimony obligation to her ex-husband. The wife’s title business relied very heavily on one client. That client, which had been responsible for roughly 85% of the title company’s business, eventually opened its own title operation and ended its relationship with C.M.S.’s company. Additionally, real estate “short sales,” which had been a huge area of profitability for C.M.S.’s company, became massively less common as the economic recovery led to rising property values. On top of those things, new regulations significantly restricted how C.M.S. could market her business.
Importantly, the wife had the document evidence to back up her assertions. Her tax documents showed that the title business’s income dropped by more than half.
So, if you’re an ex-spouse with an alimony obligation and a circumstance like this woman’s, what can you do? You can ask the court to order a modification of your alimony obligation. There can be many scenarios where a reduction or elimination of your alimony is appropriate. Maybe you were downsized by your long-time employer and you’re now at an age where it is nearly impossible to find a new position with an income anywhere near what you were making. Maybe new regulations or other industry conditions have rendered the only job you’ve ever done obsolete. Or maybe you’re in a situation like C.M.S.
3 keys to a successful alimony modification case
When you’re facing that challenge, you need proof of several things. One, you need evidence that the change to your income was dramatic enough to meet the law’s standard of a “substantial change of circumstances.” Two, you need to show that this change was something you and your spouse didn’t foresee when your divorce was finalized. Three, you need evidence that this change is something that was permanent and outside your control.
If you work in an industry that experiences market volatility, you have to demonstrate to the court that your downturn in income was something more than a “mere fluctuation in the industry.” It has to be something bigger, like the loss of your primary client or a permanent or long-term shift in the market. Changes in the laws or regulations that cause you to permanently change the way you operate or market your business could also be enough.
C.M.S. had this kind of evidence, including proof that despite her “best efforts,” C.M.S. “was unable to return to the income she previously enjoyed.”
A massive drop in your income can be a source of considerable stress. If your income changes are big enough and permanent enough, you can ease your stress a bit by getting your alimony obligation reduced. Talk to the knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A. about your circumstances. Our attorneys have many years of providing clear advice and thoughtful techniques in a full range of alimony modification and other family law cases. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.