How Long Does “Permanent” Alimony Last in Florida?
In some cases, a court decides to award “durational alimony,” which continues for a specified period of time. In other cases, a judge determines that an award of “permanent alimony” is more appropriate. Despite the name, permanent does not necessarily mean in perpetuity. Rather, Florida law states that by default, an award of permanent alimony “terminates upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage of the party receiving alimony.” The court may also alter or terminate permanent alimony if there has been a “substantial change in circumstances.”
Florida Court: Divorce Agreement Overrules Legal Default Terminating Alimony Upon Remarriage
However, if the divorcing spouses agree to a different alimony arrangement, that may override the defaults provided by law. Here is an example taken from a recent decision by the Florida Second District Court of Appeals. In this case, Inman v. Inman, a former husband asked a judge to terminate a previous award of permanent alimony granted to his former wife. At the time of the divorce, the parties stipulated to a divorce decree that said the former husband would pay $800 per month in alimony “each month thereafter for the remainder of [the former wife’s] life.” The decree made no mention of remarriage.
Yet after the former wife remarried, the former husband sought to terminate his alimony obligation, citing Florida law on the subject. The trial court denied the petition, explaining that “a marital settlement agreement provides for the continuing payment of alimony despite the remarriage of the recipient, then its terms will control over those” in the statute. The Second District appealed this finding, emphasizing that the terms of the parties’ divorce decree “unambiguously” stated alimony would only terminate automatically upon the former wife’s death.
However, the Second District did rule in the former husband’s favor on another issue. As an alternative to terminating alimony outright, the former husband asked the trial court to modify the amount of the award. Florida law permits such modifications, even when there is an agreement in place, when “the circumstances or the financial ability of either party changes.” But the burden is on the person seeking the modification to prove three things:
- There has, in fact, been a “substantial change in circumstances”;
- This change was not “contemplated” when the original alimony order was made; and
- The change itself is “permanent, material, sufficient, and involuntary.”
In this case, the former husband cited his wife’s “increased financial ability due to her remarriage” as a “substantial change in circumstances.” But the trial court said that given there was a “voluntary agreement” between the parties with respect to alimony, there was an “exceptionally heavy” burden on the former husband that he failed to meet. The Second District, however, said the law does not require such a heavier burden, so it returned the case to the trial court for reconsideration.
Speak with a Boca Raton Alimony Lawyer Today
If you need advice on seeking, terminating, or modifying a spousal support order, you should contact an experienced Boca Raton alimony attorney. Call WiseLieberman, PLLC, at 561-488-7788 to schedule a confidential consultation today with a member of our divorce and family law team.