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Seeking Modification of Florida Alimony Awards

Florida’s alimony laws are known to be some of the most progressive in the nation. If an alimony award was given in the original divorce decree, Florida law allows for modification or termination. In order for this to occur, however, the movant must establish that something has occurred to affect the former spouse’s ability to pay or the other’s need for payments. The change in circumstances must be unexpected, involuntary, and substantial. The interpretation of what “substantial change in circumstances” means, however, has been the cause of several legal battles in family court.

When No Alimony is Granted in the Original Award

Clearly, if no alimony is awarded in the original divorce decree then the court has nothing to terminate or modify. Well-settled Florida law establishes that if the original divorce case is closed with no alimony award, no party can go back and request the court modify the judgment to include alimony. The reasoning behind this is that the court lacks jurisdiction over alimony once a no-alimony order is signed. This is a strict and absolute rule, with no possibility of getting a different result.

Keeping the Alimony Door Slightly Ajar

If an order incorporates “nominal alimony” in the original award, as opposed to a no-alimony award, then modification or termination by a court is possible. This concept is used in cases where a strong claim for alimony is presented by the spouse who will purportedly receive payments, however, the spouse responsible for the payments has absolutely no possibility of doing so. In such a particular circumstance, a court may order “nominal alimony” – in the amount of as little as $1 per month – to keep the possibility of future modification open.

When Alimony is Awarded & Modification is Sought

Prior to a party requesting a modification of alimony in a Florida family court, the moving party must establish that there has been a “substantial change in circumstances”. Unless this burden is met, a modification case will not be opened. The standard requires the change be unanticipated at the time the alimony award was ordered and it must be involuntary, permanent and material. A non-exhaustive list of examples of substantial changes in circumstances includes:

  • A large raise in salary or pay;
  • A former spouse remarrying;
  • Availability of health insurance;
  • Long-term unemployment;
  • Substantial inheritance or lottery winnings;
  • Long-term involuntary decreased ability to pay; or
  • Fraud in obtaining alimony.

Factors that likely will not justify an alimony modification include purposely being terminated from employment, the expense of a second marriage, or a moderate showing of an improvement in finances of the spouse receiving alimony.

Orlando Family Law Attorney

If you or someone you know is seeking to modify or terminate alimony – or has questions relating to any other family law issue – contact the law offices of Steve W. Marsee, P.A. Our skilled legal professionals have years of experience servicing families in Central Florida in all matters concerning family law. Mr. Marsee can guide you through the legal system and answer questions you may have. Call 407-521-7171 to schedule your initial consultation in Orlando.

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