Can I Modify An Alimony Award If I Haven’t Undergone A Substantial Change In Circumstances?
A family’s financial circumstances at the time of divorce will rarely remain exactly the same over the following years. In fact, it is relatively common for a couple’s financial situations to drastically change once they separate, with many required to find new housing or employment, or to begin paying child support or alimony. Often, an alimony award that was not initially financially burdensome can become so over time, in which case, the paying party could seek modification of that order in court. Whether a modification will be granted, however, can end up being a complicated question, so if you were ordered to pay spousal support, but are now unable to do so, you should speak with an experienced Fort Lauderdale alimony lawyer about your legal options.
A Substantial Change in Circumstances
Under Florida law, an alimony obligation can usually only be modified if one of the parties has experienced a substantial change in circumstances. While what satisfies this definition isn’t always clear, courts have generally held that job loss, the birth of a new child, a change in relationship status, or disability or illness usually qualify as substantial for the purposes of this analysis. This can leave many people, whose circumstances may have changed, although not to a “substantial” degree, in a difficult position. Fortunately, courts are willing to modify alimony in a few other situations.
Types of Alimony
One of the most important factors that influences when an alimony award will terminate is the type of alimony in question. Temporary alimony, for instance, is only awarded for the pendency of a couple’s divorce proceedings and so will terminate automatically upon the finalization of that divorce. Bridge-the-gap alimony, on the other hand, comes with a specific timeline of two years that cannot be modified.
Rehabilitative alimony awards, which are awarded in cases where one spouse needs financial support to seek education, develop skills, or obtain training, also have a deadline, although the exact date of termination will depend on the nature of the recipient’s rehabilitative plan. Many of these awards, for instance, end when the recipient obtains a degree or specific certification. A failure to follow the terms of this plan can provide grounds for modification, or even termination of the award. Unlike bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative awards can be modified, even when a substantial change in circumstances hasn’t occurred.
Death or Remarriage
Finally, Florida courts will agree to modify an alimony award in two specific instances, including upon the death of either party or upon the recipient’s remarriage. This means that if a payor or his or her former partner passes away, no further payments will need to be made. Similarly, if the person receiving the payments remarries, alimony payments will automatically end on the date of the marriage. This is true even for permanent alimony, which is still awarded in Florida, although usually only after the dissolution of a lengthy marriage.
Call for Help with Your Alimony-Related Legal Questions
Modifying an alimony award can be difficult, so if you are no longer able to meet your financial obligations to a former spouse, please don’t hesitate to call dedicated Florida alimony lawyer Sandra Bonfiglio, P.A. at 954-945-7591 today to discuss your options.