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Modifying Alimony


Family in need of attorney

As Family Law Attorneys with decades of combined practice experience, the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. knows that life can be highly unpredictable. We understand the challenges and concerns that can arise when presented with unanticipated events that impact one’s financial stability. When it comes to spousal support, it is important to know the options and remedies that may be available when faced with a change in economic position. Whether paying or receiving alimony, in Florida, most forms of spousal support can be modified, and in some cases be terminated altogether.

What is Modification of Alimony?

In general, modification is when a court enters an order that changes, replaces, or supersedes a prior determination concerning the parties that were subject to the initial agreement or order. In family law, modification applies to a variety of matters, including child support, time-sharing and custody, as well as alimony and spousal support. A modification of alimony can occur for several reasons, and in some cases will depend on the specific type of alimony awarded, but can also depend on the terms of a marital settlement agreement if one was entered into.

Is my Alimony Order subject to Modification?

While most forms of alimony are modifiable, there are some limitations. For example, the amount of durational alimony can be modified, while the modification of payment duration is only available under ‘exceptional circumstances,’ and may not be exceed the length of the marriage. In addition, neither the amount nor duration of bridge-the-gap alimony can be altered through a modification proceeding. Additionally, in some cases, the terms of a pre-nuptial or marital-settlement agreement can limit the ability to modify support.

What are the Grounds for obtaining a Modification?

Florida Statutes §61.14 sets forth the grounds for obtaining a modification, as well as the factors the court will use in evaluating whether a modification is appropriate given the circumstances of each party. Similar to child support payments, altering alimony payments will generally require a showing that the circumstances of either party have substantially changed. Examples of substantial change include:

  • Increase or Reduction of Income
  • Illness or Disability
  • Retirement
  • Financial gain through inheritance or investments
  • Decrease in recipient’s living expenses
  • Cohabitation evidencing a ‘supportive relationship’
  • Inability to find employment
  • Other change in financial resources

In addition to substantial change, a modification of rehabilitative alimony can also occur upon non-compliance or completion of the rehabilitative plan.

How can a Modification proceeding effect Support Payments?

Spousal support can be modified to increase payments, referred to as an upward modification, and can also be modified to decrease payments, referred to a downward modification. In some cases, such as with temporary alimony, the support may be retroactive to the date of the initial order for support, or date of filing a petition for dissolution, support, or supplemental modification. It is also important to keep in mind that support can be modified as an alternative to termination, however this generally requires a party to properly assert this in their request or defense.

What are the Procedures to Obtain (or defend) Modification?

Much like termination of alimony, modification also requires that a formal request be made to the court having proper jurisdiction over a matter. A request for modification must assert the grounds for modifying support, be filed with the court, and be served upon the other party that is subject to the existing order. A party defending a request for modification must respond to such request in the appropriate time period, as well as provide the grounds for which their defense is based.

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Who can obtain a modification?

Either party that is subject to alimony order may request a modification to increase or decrease support payments. Our Alimony Attorneys have represented clients in a broad range of alimony proceedings. In some cases, we represent payers that are seeking a downward modification or defending a recipient’s request for an upward modification. In other cases, we represent recipients that wish to request modification to increase payments, or that need to defend a payer’s petition to decrease payments.

Can I obtain Attorney’s Fees from the other party in a Modification Proceeding?

Generally, each party will bear their own expenses associated with the request or defense of modifying support. However, Fla. Stat. §61.16(1) provides that “The court may from time to time, after considering the financial resources of both parties, order a party to pay a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees, suit money, and the cost to the other party of maintaining or defending any proceeding under Chapter 61 of Florida Statutes, including enforcement and modification proceedings and appeals.” So, yes, you may recover attorneys fees from the other party. The critical question in recovering attorney’s fees is whether you have the need to have them paid because you cannot afford to, and does the other party have the financial means to pay some , or all of your attorney’s fees.

Is Modification appropriate in my case?

Determining whether a modification of support is appropriate will depend on your unique circumstances. However, as a general rule, it is necessary to first consider (1) the grounds for modification given your specific type of support; (2) the needs of the recipient in comparison to the financial ability of the payer; (3) the effect of any pre-nuptial or post-marital agreements; and (4) the potential outcome of a modification proceeding given factors (1)-(3).

It is important to carefully analyze the circumstances of each party prior to seeking modification, because failure to properly do so can have the unfortunate result of ‘opening the door’ for the other party to modify support in a manner that favors the defending party. With decades of practice experience, the client driven results focused Gainesville alimony attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A., can evaluate your particular scenario, explain your legal rights and options in seeking or defending a request to modify support, and then help you seek or defend against any modification sought.