Permanent Alimony: Not So Permanent?
Permanent periodic alimony is one of the six types of alimony that a Florida judge can award in a divorce case. It is typically awarded in long-term marriages (those lasting for 17 years or more) and sometimes in moderate term marriages (those lasting from 7 to 16 years). Calling this type of alimony “permanent,” however, may be a misnomer. Per statute, an award of permanent periodic alimony “may be modified or terminated based upon a substantial change in circumstances or upon the existence of a supportive relationship in accordance with s. 61.14.” See § 61.08(8), Fla. Stat. (For a more in-depth discussion of the 6 different types of alimony and what factors a court considers in fashioning an alimony award, see our previous blog post, “What Matters When Calculating Alimony.”)
Downward Modification or Termination of Permanent Periodic Alimony
A permanent periodic alimony award may be modified downward if the payor spouse establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the payee spouse is involved in a “supportive relationship,” as defined under Florida law (sometimes referred to as “cohabitation”). To determine whether a supportive relationship exists, a court will consider a number of factors, including: how long the spouse has lived with the other person, whether they have pooled their assets together, whether they hold themselves out as a married couple, whether they have jointly contributed to the purchase of property, and whether they have supported the other person’s children. If it can be established that a supportive relationship exists between the payee spouse and another person, then the permanent periodic alimony award may be reduced or terminated by the court.
Upward Modification of Permanent Periodic Alimony
A permanent periodic alimony award may be modified upward if there has been a substantial change of circumstances that warrants it. This is provided, however, that the original alimony award failed to meet the needs of the payee spouse as they existed under the standard of living established by the parties during the intact marriage. The spouse seeking such an upward modification bears the burden of showing that the change in circumstances is sufficient, material, involuntary, and permanent in nature. For example, courts have held that inflation or a general change in the economy is not a substantial change in circumstances unless it can be shown that such factors had a specific and substantial impact on the payee spouse.
Sarasota Divorce Attorney
If you have questions about whether the alimony awarded in your divorce case is subject to modification, please call Loftus Law to schedule a consultation with an experienced Sarasota divorce attorney. There are a number of case-specific considerations involved in determining whether and when an alimony award may be modified. Prior to meeting with you at your consultation, we will take the time to review your specific judgment and settlement agreement, if any. At your consultation, your time can then be maximized by discussing the legal options specific to your circumstances and answering whatever questions you may have.