When Is Permanent Alimony Not Permanent? When There Has Been A Substantial Change In Circumstances.

When a judge orders a spouse to pay permanent periodic alimony, he or she may feel resigned to a lifetime of indebtedness to the one person he or she is trying to forget about. It’s that word, “permanent,” that seems so…well…permanent. But, believe it or not, Florida law has contemplated that there are times when permanent alimony may no longer be appropriate (or when the amount of alimony may be reduced).

Section 61.08(8), Florida Statutes, states that permanent alimony may be modified or terminated when there has been a substantial change in circumstances that affects the receiving spouse’s need for alimony or the paying spouse’s ability to pay. Case law tells us that a “substantial change in circumstances” means a change that was unanticipated at the time the alimony was ordered by the Court, and a change that is permanent, involuntary, and material. Examples of substantial changes in circumstance include deterioration of the paying spouse’s health, a long-term and substantial decline in the paying spouse’s income, or unexpected inheritance recently gifted to the receiving spouse.

Even if a change in circumstances is voluntary, it may still warrant a modification or reduction of permanent alimony if the change is prudent, or a smart and well thought out decision. For example, let’s say a person was a real estate agent at the time he was ordered to pay permanent alimony, but, because of changes in the economy, he has chosen to switch careers and take a position with an oil company. Though this position pays much less than the person received at the height of the real estate boom, it is now much more stable with the possibility of long-term advancement. If the person can show that this voluntary reduction in income was prudent, he may still be able to get his alimony obligation reduced or terminated.

Section 61.08(8), Florida States, provides that permanent periodic alimony also terminates upon (i) the death of either party or (ii) the remarriage of the receiving spouse. However, if your former spouse remarries, don’t simply stop making payments. You will have to file a supplemental petition with the Court, request the termination of the alimony, and wait for the Court to enter an order terminating the obligation.

Additionally, a judge may reduce or terminate an award of permanent alimony upon finding that the receiving spouse is now in a supportive relationship. Section 61.14(1)(b)(2), Florida Statutes, provides guidelines to determine whether such a relationship exists.

Even if you are late on payments, you may request a reduction or termination of alimony. Keep in mind, however, that you will still be responsible for alimony payments that accrued prior to you filing a supplemental petition requesting a modification of the alimony order.

One last point: A judge will only reduce or terminate permanent alimony if you properly ask for the modification. If you simply stop paying alimony without filing a supplemental petition, you may face sanctions, such as paying your former spouse’s attorney’s fees, having your driver’s license suspended, or possibly even spending some time in jail. Consult with a Florida family law attorney to see what you can do to take the “permanent” out of your alimony obligation.

If you are seeking to modify your alimony obligation, and you wish to set up a consultation with a Florida alimony attorney, contact The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., by calling us at (813) 443-0615 or filling out our contact form.

About Adam B. Cordover, Attorney-at-Law

Family Diplomacy is dedicated to helping clients restructure their families privately and respectfully. We practice exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution, with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services. We maintain this out-of-court practice because we strongly believe that family disputes should be resolved in a private conference room, not in a hostile and public courtroom environment. This unique perspective on family law stems back to Adam B. Cordover’s experience studying International Affairs in Washington, D.C., and abroad. Adam had the rare opportunity to work closely with ambassadors and diplomats from war-torn regions around the world. He traveled around the globe, learning from diplomatic leaders as they applied dispute resolution techniques to tackle seemingly impossible conflicts. It dawned on him: If these techniques can work in the complex world of International Relations, why not Domestic Relations and Family Law? This realization lead Adam to create an exclusively out-of-court practice and to bring a more peacemaking approach to family law. In his previous role as a litigation attorney, Adam witnessed parties experience the negative emotional and financial effects that long, drawn out divorce battles can have on families. As a result, Adam has become a strong proponent of the Collaborative Process, where a structure is put in place so that life’s hardest moments do not have to be any more difficult than necessary. A thought leader in the international collaborative law community, Adam successfully spearheaded an effort of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to draft an administrative order safeguarding the principles of collaborative family law (just the fourth such administrative order in Florida). Adam has been featured in or interviewed about collaborative practice by the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Florida Bar News, NBC, Fox 13, Bay News 9, ABC Action News, The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine, and Spirit FM 90.5. Adam regularly speaks at professional and civic organizations locally and internationally regarding the collaborative process. Adam B. Cordover is president of Next Generation Divorce, a 501(c)(3) and Florida’s largest interdisciplinary collaborative practice group with member attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Sarasota, and Manatee Counties. Adam is also on the Executive Board and co-chair of the Research Committee of the Collaborative Family Law Council of Florida. Further, Adam is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Leadership Academy of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. You can learn more about us and our services at www.FamilyDiplomacy.com. Attorney Adam B. Cordover is admitted to the Florida Bar and the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida. His office is located at 412 East Madison Street, Suite 824, Tampa, Florida 33602.
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One Response to When Is Permanent Alimony Not Permanent? When There Has Been A Substantial Change In Circumstances.

  1. Pingback: Does Florida Have Alimony Guidelines? | ABC Family Law Blog

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