Spouses are often awarded alimony in order to provide them with an opportunity to rehabilitate their career or skills for employment after the end of a marriage.We’ve discussed Alimony, How to Qualify and What to Expect elsewhere in our website, and now we’re going to go a step further and discuss a few methods for modification of alimony in Florida.
A quick review of the different types of Alimony:
First, let’s revisit the different types of alimony that can be awarded. Temporary Alimony, also known as rehabilitative alimony, is meant to assist a spouse in picking up or resuming a career or developing career-building skills. It’s not meant to be a means for survival, but should provide for a good stepping stone into the path of financial independence.
In cases where a marriage lasts for longer periods of time, or when a spouse did not become employable or develop skills to gain employment, permanent alimony is typically awarded and paid for an indefinite period of time.
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In Florida, courts have the power to modify alimony orders and typically invoke their ability to do so if there is a substantial change in the lifestyle or finances of either one or both of the spouses which can be shown. There are many factors that can create a reasonable grounds for modification. Loss of a job, severe illness, death, retirement, or remarriage are all considered substantial enough to warrant a change or modification of alimony.
Florida courts have also begun recognizing cohabitation by the receiving spouse as a substantial change. If a spouse has begun a live-in relationship with anyone who provides for them financially, or contributes to their finances in any way, the additional income being received by the spouse who is collecting alimony would be considered by Florida courts as possible grounds for a reduction in the amount of alimony a spouse was initially entitled to.
Petition for Modification of Alimony
Anyone who feels the need to have an existing order for alimony changed or modified in Florida must begin by completing and filing a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony. The petition is to be filed within the same county where the divorce originally occurred in the Family Law Court. Most Florida Circuit Courts as well as the Florida Supreme Court website provide access to download the petition online, or you can download the Florida Supreme Court Approved Family Law Form 12.905(c), Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony right here from the Florida Courts website.
Completing the Petition:
When completing the Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony, typical requirements should include the names and addresses of both spouses, the date the divorce originally took place, as well as the existing alimony order and amount being paid, along with any payment schedules. The petitioner will also be asked to provide an explanation as to what the substantial change of circumstances are which prompted the need for a modification. Grounds for modification are mentioned above, but may include but are not limited to cohabitation, loss of employment, career change, retirement or death.
When completing the Supplemental Petition, a deputy court clerk or a notary public must be present when the petition is signed, and the original divorce decree is to be attached and included, and there may be fee requirements in order to reopen the divorce case which is necessary in order to modify the alimony or any existing orders related to the divorce.
Required Forms and Documents:
There are a few additional forms that are required which must be filed along with the Supplemental Petition. If the spouses have reached an agreement pertaining to the modification, then a settlement agreement would need to be included. Spouses are also asked to provide Financial Affidavits in order to itemize or detail the financial situations of each spouse. In order to certify that each spouse has answered truthfully when providing their financial disclosures to the court, both are also required to complete and file a Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Compliance. Each of the forms come with instructions attached, and all of these additional documents are mandatory and required in order to process the petition for modification for alimony.
Providing Service and Awaiting Trial
Any Supplemental Petition and the additional required documents to be included with the petition are to be served upon the other spouse. A professional process server or constable can be used to deliver the documents, usually for a small fee. They will ensure delivery of the documents while also providing evidence or proof of service.
Once the other spouse has received service, they are given 20 days to file either an answer or an answer with counter-petition. The other spouse can dispute or disagree with anything in the petition for modification, and if they do so, then the spouse who provided the supplemental petition for modification of alimony will be required to contact the court and request a hearing or trial date.
Both spouses may also be required to participate in mediation before they are permitted to proceed in trial. Mediation involves employing an impartial third person to facilitate communication between the parties. Often times, a mutually acceptable resolution can be reached through the cooperative dispute resolution process mediation provides for. However, the modification issue will go to trial if no mediation agreement can be reached. During the subsequent trial, it will be the responsibility of the petitioner to prove they are entitled to any requested modification as outlined in their supplemental petition for modification of alimony.
Reaching an Agreement:
Having reached an agreement, a written settlement agreement will be produced. Both spouses’ names and addresses will be included along with the date of divorce, original alimony amount, and payment schedule, similar to the information required when completing the supplemental petition that begins the modification of alimony process.
Additionally, the grounds for substantial change of circumstances which resulted in the need to modify the existing alimony agreement will be provided along with an explanation of the proposed changes. A statement is also provided which acknowledges both sides are in agreement with the requested changes, and once again, in the presence of a notary or deputy court clerk, the spouses will both be required to sign the agreement.
If for some reason the spouses cannot agree on all of the proposed changes, anything that is not agreed upon will then revert back to mediation or instead, may be decided upon by the presiding judge.
The attorneys at Fernandez Law Group always represent the best interests of our clients and if you have any questions about alimony, divorce, child support, custody, mediation, or need a family law attorney in Tampa, we suggest you call us today at 813-489-3222 for a FREE consultation.
Content authored by Frank Fernandez