UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES CAN A MODIFICATION OF MY FINAL JUDGMENT OCCUR?
While a dissolved marriage cannot be undone (thank goodness), support obligations, as well as time-sharing plans, can be modified. However, it’s not an easy endeavor. Under Florida law, in order to obtain a modification of a previous judgment entered by the courts, you must show a substantial, material, permanent change in circumstances that was not contemplated at the time of the last order. This can be very challenging in the case of children who have adapted to a certain Parenting Plan schedule, or for a spouse that has come to rely on a certain support amount, but the attorneys are Sasso & Guerrero at well versed at making persuasive arguments to either justify or defend against modifications in some circumstances.
CAN I MODIFY MY CHILD SUPPORT?
For child support, a substantial change usually means that someone’s income went up or down, health insurance expenses increased or decreased, a child’s day care expense lessened or was eliminated, or other economic changes justify a different child support figure. As long as these changes cause an increase or decrease of 15% or more, a modification action can be successful.
CAN I MODIFY MY ALIMONY?
Interestingly, regarding alimony, increased income of the payor spouse alone will not justify an increase in alimony unless the original alimony award did not meet the recipient spouse’s needs; a former spouse is generally not entitled to share in a higher standard of living earned by the payor spouse after their divorce, at a level never shared during the marriage. Alimony modification cases are frequently payor spouses seeking a decrease because a recipient spouse has rehabilitated their career and made strides towards a better salary than was ever contemplated at the time of divorce. Payor spouses can also seek modification in the event that a recipient spouse remarries, which causes most types of alimony to terminate.
Some recipient spouses refuse to remarry, due either to the psychologically devastating effects of their first divorce (if you ask the recipient), or due to losing their posh alimony award (if you ask the payor spouse). Florida statutes therefore provide a list of factors for a court to consider in determining whether a recipient spouse has entered into a “supportive relationship,” which is basically equivalent to the financial interdependence exhibited in a marriage. The factors are as follows:
- The extent to which the alimony recipient and the other person have held themselves to be married, including using the same last name or calling each other “husband” or “wife.”
- The period of time that the alimony recipient has resided with the other person in a permanent residence.
- The extent to which the alimony recipient and the other person have pooled their assets or income.
- The extent to which the alimony recipient or the other person has supported the other.
- The extent to which the alimony recipient or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.
- The extent to which the alimony recipient or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer.
- Whether the alimony recipient and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value.
- Whether the alimony recipient and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.
- Whether the alimony recipient and the other person have an express or implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.
- Whether the alimony recipient and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardless of any legal duty to do so.
It should be noted that the factors in the statute are not an all-or-nothing proposition. Florida courts are given some discretion to reduce alimony based on decreased need, whether the recipient spouse benefits from the expense sharing a roommate provides or whether that spouse is truly trying to dodge the alimony termination that re-marriage unquestionably triggers.