In Florida, alimony payments are normally awarded in medium to long-term marriages where one spouse’s income is significantly different from the other spouse. The question often arises after a divorce settlement concerning whether alimony payments can be changed or modified. The simple answer is yes, the payments can be modified if there is an alimony agreement contained in the final dissolution of marriage in the first place. This is important because if no alimony was awarded in the original decree of divorce, a Florida court will under no circumstances award alimony ex post facto. That’s why getting that right is so crucially important. In many cases, alimony or support payments can be negotiated between the parties and the judge will simply agree to the negotiated settlement. Now, if the negotiated settlement is obviously inequitable and unfair to one of the parties, the judge may decide that the alimony arrangement isn’t fair to both parties and adjust the amounts. However, this has never happened to me in my years practicing Florida divorce law.
Before you can file for modification of alimony in Florida you must qualify by having a “Substantial Change in Circumstances.” If you do not satisfy that requirement you cannot open a modification case. A “substantial change in circumstances” means a change that was unanticipated at the time the alimony was ordered by the court. The change must be permanent, involuntary, and material. The last three words, permanent, involuntary, and material are open to interpretation and that’s where the lawyers enter into the fray. Some clear examples of “substantial change” may include winning the lottery, long-term unemployment, a permanently disabling disease, etc. There are more examples but most situations are not as clear cut and will need the expertise of an experienced negotiator. An example of what wouldn’t qualify as a “substantial change” would be a subsequent marriage.
Alimony modifications will require going back to court and can be a complicated legal process. It is much better to negotiate an alimony that you can live with before the final dissolution of marriage is finalized.