How Can I Get Alimony Modified in Florida?
By Jennifer Williams
Alimony is monetary support one spouse pays to the other after a divorce. In Florida, temporary, or rehabilitative, alimony is paid to provide a spouse with the opportunity to rehabilitate career or work skills. Permanent alimony is paid indefinitely, usually in long marriages where the receiving spouse did not develop work skills during the marriage. Florida courts modify alimony when there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
Grounds for Modification
Alimony orders will be changed by the Florida courts when a substantial change in the circumstances of one or both spouses can be shown. Substantial changes include job loss, retirement, death, illness and remarriage of one or both of the spouses. Cohabitation of the receiving spouse is a recently added substantial change considered by Florida courts; if the spouse receiving alimony begins a live-in relationship with someone who contributes to her financial support, Florida courts will consider the additional income as grounds for a possible reduction in the amount of alimony the spouse is entitled to.
Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony
The process of modifying alimony begins by filing a Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony with the Circuit Family Law Court in the same county where the original divorce was filed. All Florida circuit court clerks, Florida Supreme Court website and online legal document providers make the Supplemental Petition for Modification form available with instructions.
Contents of the Supplemental Petition
The Supplemental Petition must include the names and addresses of both spouses, date of the original divorce, original amount of alimony with payment schedule, an explanation of the substantial change of circumstances prompting the request for alimony modification and the desired change. The Supplemental Petition must be signed before a notary or deputy court clerk with a copy of the original divorce decree attached. Expect to pay a fee for reopening the divorce case and filing the Supplemental Petition.
Additional forms must be filed with the Supplemental Petition. These forms include a settlement agreement, if the spouses have reached agreement about modification; Family Law Financial Affidavits that detail each spouse's financial situation; and a Certificate of Compliance with Mandatory Compliance, which certifies that each spouse has truthfully disclosed all required financial information to the court. These forms are mandatory, and each has instructions attached.
Service and Trial
Once filed, the Supplemental Petition and additional documents must be served on the other spouse. For a small fee, a professional process server will personally deliver the documents and provide evidence that the papers were served. The other spouse has 20 days in which to file an Answer, or Answer and Counterpetition. If either of these documents disagree with anything in the Supplemental Petition, the petitioning spouse must contact the court for a hearing or trial date. In some Florida circuits, such as the Fourth Circuit, both spouses may be required to participate in mediation before proceeding to trial. If no agreement is reached by mediation, the modification issue then goes to trial. At trial, the petitioning spouse must prove that he is entitled to the modification requested in the Supplemental Petition.
When both spouses agree to modify alimony, a written settlement agreement must contain the names and addresses of both spouses, date of the original divorce, original alimony amount and payment schedule, explanation of the substantial change of circumstances prompting the request for alimony modification and an explanation of the desired change. It must also include a statement that both spouses agree to the requested change. Both spouses must sign the agreement before a notary or deputy court clerk. Sometimes spouses agree to some, but not all, requested changes. Any changes not agreed on are either referred to mediation or decided by the judge.
An attorney for more than 18 years, Jennifer Williams has served the Florida Judiciary as supervising attorney for research and drafting, and as appointed special master. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Jacksonville University, law degree from NSU's Shepard-Broad Law Center and certificates in environmental law and Native American rights from Tulsa University Law.