The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in many ways, including financially. Some may be struggling to keep their homes, while others may be struggling to feed their families. Some of those who have been thrown into dire financial straits here in Florida are people who have alimony obligations. If that’s you, the worst thing you can do is sit idly by and do nothing as you fall behind on your alimony. Instead, take action right away to get in touch with an experienced South Florida family law attorney and begin taking the actions that the law lets you take.
Even as Florida has re-opened most of its businesses, problems remain. Late last month, the government once again shuttered all bars, according to a NBC Miami report. You can imagine then, if you’re the proprietor of a popular bar in Fort Lauderdale Beach (from which you derive most of your income) and you’re also a divorced spouse who owes a monthly alimony payment, the re-closure of all bars in the Sunshine State is a source of major stress for you.
The law does still give you options, though. To get your alimony payments lowered, you will have to clear several legal hurdles. The first thing you absolutely must do is prove that you have a change of circumstances. Furthermore, that change has to be both (1) substantial and (2) something that could not have been anticipated when alimony was litigated (or set via a mutual agreement.) In other words, if you’re 63 years old when you sign your alimony agreement, you may not be able to turn around at age 65 and get a downward modification of alimony based on your retirement (and the reduction in income it created.)
No matter how much your income dropped, it is possible the court may determine that your retirement was something you and your ex-spouse contemplated (or reasonably should have) when working out the alimony agreement, so your retirement may not be a qualifying change in circumstances that allows the court to revisit your obligation and lower your payments.
In addition to being substantial and something you couldn’t have anticipated, your change of circumstances often needs to be something outside your control. For example, a supporting spouse who is fired because of his employer’s coronavirus-fueled financial woes is someone whose loss of employment might trigger a modification. On the other hand, a supporting spouse who lost his job because he purposefully set out to get himself fired will not be entitled to that reduction in his alimony payment.
Furthermore, your change must be permanent. If you own a business that has seen revenues drop by 40% during the pandemic but, based on market forces, stands to return to pre-pandemic revenues a few months from now, then you might not be entitled to a downward modification because your change of circumstances might not be seen by the court as a permanent shift.
If you think you need a reduction in your alimony, it is important to take steps without delay. If you simply allow yourself to get behind on paying your alimony, you potentially could give your ex-spouse an opportunity to go to court and have the judge find you in contempt. Instead of that, protect yourself and your family’s financial well-being by securing skilled legal representation. The knowledgeable South Florida family law attorneys at Sandy T. Fox, P.A., are here to provide just that for our clients. Armed with our many years of experience across a wide array of family law cases, including alimony modification and child support modification, we have the tools you need for success. Contact our attorneys online or by calling (800) 596-0579 to schedule your confidential consultation.