Can I Modify My Alimony Because of the Pandemic?
Millions of Floridians are now suffering a significant decrease in income due to the pandemic. Can individuals who have obligated themselves to pay a fixed sum in alimony to a former spouse now modify that obligation in recognition of the fact that their income has been reduced?
The answer, like many things in the law, is that it depends. The best way to achieve a reduction in alimony is to have a constructive conversation with your former spouse about the need for an alimony reduction. The success or failure of this approach depends, of course, on the nature of your relationship.
Court Intervention When Modifying Alimony
However, in many circumstances, court intervention is required. The Florida family courts are likely seeing a lot of these requests during this unusual time in history. We all hope that the worldwide pandemic is only temporary; that is why a temporary modification of alimony request is likely to be received more favorably than a permanent one. A temporary alimony request should be made to coincide with the level of income that has been reduced. In other words, if your paycheck has been reduced by fifty percent, it is reasonable for you to seek a similar level of alimony reduction.
A divorced spouse who is paying alimony is likely to be entitled to a reduction in alimony if that spouse can show a substantial downward change in income and that the alimony reduction is not being sought simply for the purpose of avoiding payment.
Good faith is an important component of this issue.
A divorced spouse can show good faith by producing a required financial affidavit and copies of recent pay stubs showing the decline/reduction in income.
Florida courts focus on the events and circumstances surrounding the adverse change in the spouse’s financial condition. During these times, the impact of the pandemic is well recognized and presents the spouse whose desire it is to reduce alimony, with a built-in basis for the claimed reduction. The Florida courts analyzed these issues under similar circumstances during the real estate downturn in 2008.
In the event that a party is successful in convincing the court that a temporary modification of alimony is justified, the court can suspend the payments altogether if the spouse is unemployed, underemployed or can simply reduce the alimony while the unemployment continues. The key to making a successful claim for alimony reduction is preparing your financial information in such a manner that a court will be convinced that your income has been reduced as a result of something which is beyond your control.
About the Author: Roger Slade is an AV-rated commercial litigator with over 30 years of experience. Throughout his career, he has handled all types of litigation matters including business fraud, class-actions for both Plaintiffs and Defendants, real estate litigation, privacy litigation, commercial collection matters, employment discrimination claims, general business disputes and international family law matters. Roger has served on the Board of the Dade County Bar Association, is the President and Founder of the Heroes of Tomorrow Foundation, and is on the Board of Directors of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.