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Spousal Support

What Is Alimony?

When a couple divorces, the court may order one spouse to pay the other spouse alimony. Alimony is sometimes referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance. While married, couples typically have a fully combined household. After a divorce, the courts seek to divide the household's property and assets in as a fair and equitable a manner as possible. This can result in one spouse being ordered to pay maintenance to the other.

Alimony is more common in cases where one spouse worked while the other managed the household and children. In families where both spouses work, and there isn't a great disparity between their income, alimony is less common.

How Alimony Is Calculated

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to spousal support orders. The courts consider many factors when making their determination. In addition to the length of the marriage and each party's income, the courts also consider the age and overall health of each person as well as the ability of both spouses to support themselves after the divorce. Alimony is designed to ensure that both parties' needs are met and empower them to live independently post-divorce.

There are several types of alimony in Florida, including:

  • Temporary
  • Lump-sum
  • Bridge-the-gap
  • Rehabilitative
  • Durational
  • Permanent

In Florida, the courts have the authority to award several types of alimony, depending on the circumstances. For example, they may award temporary alimony to cover expenses during the divorce proceedings and then also award rehabilitative alimony to help them work towards self-sufficiency post-divorce.

Read our blog to learn more about the different types of alimony in Florida.

Can Alimony Orders Be Modified?

While spousal support orders are legally binding, they are not all written in stone. Several types of alimony orders can be modified, including durational and permanent alimony. Modifications to spousal maintenance are taken very seriously. When assessing the case, the courts may order a temporary or permanent change, depending on the circumstances.

Types of alimony that cannot be modified are:

  • Lump-sum alimony
  • Bridge-the-gap alimony

If you want to modify your alimony order, you need to consult with an experienced lawyer, like ours at Mitchell & West LLC. A skilled attorney will help you determine if you have a strong case for a modification and help you put your best foot forward in court.

Reasons to Modify Spousal Support

Like child support modifications, for the courts to consider your petition, you must demonstrate a clear need for the modification. To have a good case for an alimony modification, you or your former spouse must have experienced a significant change in circumstances. This change in circumstances must also be either unplanned or involuntary.

Common reasons people seek alimony modifications include:

  • A significant change in income
  • Unexpected unemployment
  • Injury, illness, or disability
  • Remarriage

It is important to remember that not all changes in circumstance warrant a spousal maintenance modification. For example, if the person ordered to pay alimony willingly quits their job, the court may not grant a modification. However, if the paying spouse unexpectedly loses their job, they may be awarded a temporary modification while looking for new employment. If the change of circumstances is significant or lasting, such as with retirement or an injury that precludes someone from working, the modification may be awarded permanently.

Click here for the Florida Statutes on modifying alimony agreements.

What to Do If Your Former Spouse Isn't Paying Court-Ordered Alimony

Alimony is not optional. If you were granted alimony and your former spouse refuses to pay, it is not only frustrating. It can threaten your financial stability and your ability to take care of yourself. Dealing with a situation like this can be overwhelming, and you may not know where to turn. Your first step should be to contact a trusted attorney for guidance.

In some situations, you may be able to resolve alimony issues out of court. Some couples can, with the help of their lawyers, work out a modification agreement together. This modification is then registered with the courts and approved by a judge. However, modifications are not always appropriate. Instead, you may need to petition the courts for alimony enforcement.

You must work with a lawyer when preparing your enforcement petition. As part of the enforcement process, you must demonstrate both that your ex failed to make the required payments and that their failure to do so caused you financial harm. Your attorney can help you organize your evidence and help you put your best foot forward in court.

Click here for more information on what to do if your former spouse refuses to pay court-ordered alimony.

If you have been ordered to pay spousal support, you must comply with your order. Failure to comply with your court-ordered alimony can result in legal action brought against you. You may face enforcement measures such as wage garnishment or liens. In some cases, the courts may even apply punitive measures such as jail time and fines. If you are struggling to make alimony payments or have some other related problem, reach out to your lawyer right away.