The court may order, or the parties can agree, that one spouse pay the other alimony (aka spousal support or maintenance) following a divorce. In Florida, there are different types of alimony, including bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, durational, or permanent. Not all types of alimony can be changed or terminated, but for most, there are options available.
This type of alimony is awarded to assist the receiving party to make the transition from being married to being single. This type of alimony can be awarded to provide for the short-terms needs of party and cannot exceed 2 years in duration. The duration and amount of this type of alimony cannot be modified or changed. It only terminates upon the expiration of the assigned duration, death of either former spouse, or if the person receiving the alimony remarries.
This type of alimony may be awarded in situations where one spouse needs financial assistance while obtaining the skills necessary for self-support. This can include either the redevelopment of previous skills or credentials or the development of future education, training, or work experience in order to become employable. Rehabilitative alimony can only be changed if the paying former spouse can show a substantial change in circumstances, the receiving former spouse has not complied with the rehabilitate plan, or once the rehabilitate plan has been completed.
This type of alimony may be awarded in cases where permanent alimony is not needed. This type of alimony is intended to provide a party with financial assistance for a set period of time following a marriage lasting less than 17 years. The amount of durational alimony can be changed upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances. It is important to note that this type of alimony can only be changed in the amount of the support due. The duration of the support obligation cannot be changed. Durational alimony will terminate if either former spouse dies or the receiving former spouse remarries.
This type of alimony is appropriate in cases where one spouse lacks the financial resources to meet his or her needs as established during the marriage. This type of alimony will usually be awarded after a marriage lasting for longer than 17 years, if needed. This type of alimony can be changed or terminated based on a substantial change in circumstances of either party or upon the existence of a supportive relationship (see Fla. Stat. § 61.40). Permanent alimony will terminate upon the death of either former spouse or if the receiving former spouse remarries.
Substantial Change in Circumstances
Except for bridge-the-gap alimony, all alimony can be changed based upon a showing of a “substantial change in circumstances.” This means that something must have changed since the order awarding alimony was entered. In other words, the reason for the change cannot be something that existed prior to the divorce. The change in circumstances can pertain to either the paying or receiving former spouse. It is also important to know the change in the amount of alimony can be increased or decreased at the request of either former spouse. Below is a list of examples that the court may consider a substantial change in circumstance:
• Involuntary long-term job loss by the paying former spouse
• Retirement by the paying former spouse
• Large raise or significant pay increase by receiving former spouse
• Lottery winning by either spouse
• Long-term health problems
• High value gifts
Permanent alimony can also be changed if the receiving former spouse enters a supportive relationship with a new boyfriend or girlfriend. This law has only been on the books since 2005. Prior to then, permanent alimony would terminate if the receiving former spouse remarried. The change in law allows for the paying former spouse to change or end the alimony obligation if she/he can show that the receiving former spouse is living with the new boyfriend/girlfriend and is financially benefitting from the relationship. In other words, the receiving former spouse would no longer have the same need for financial support in light of the new, supportive relationship.