In addition to mediating Florida divorce cases, our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators at Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc. also routinely mediate modification cases; with one of the more difficult being where a former spouse is attempting to terminate his or her alimony obligation.
In order to understand this issue, we need to first look at Florida Statute § 61.08 as to why alimony is initially awarded in a Florida Family Law Dissolution of Marriage case. The purpose of alimony is to assist a spouse in maintaining the standard of living that he or she was used to during the marriage as well as to help that individual get back on his or her feet financially.
Alimony can only be modified when there has been a substantial change in circumstance that was not contemplated at the time of the original award. This can occur when one of the former spouses has a major change in his or her income level and alimony also terminates when the receiving spouse remarries.
At Mediators at Mediation of Coral Springs, Inc., we see spouses who are receiving alimony who mistakenly believe that by not getting remarried – but instead cohabitating with his or her new paramour – alimony can’t be terminated or modified. However that is far from the truth because in 2005, Florida Statute § 61.14 was amended to provide that a Florida Family Law Court can reduce or terminate alimony when the former spouse who is the alimony recipient is in a “supportive relationship” with a person with whom he or she resides.
The “supportive relationship” can exist regardless as to whether the alimony recipient is residing with an individual with whom he or she is romantically involved as long as these two individuals share expenses or otherwise support each other financially and are not related to each other by blood or marriage.
But proving that a supportive relationship exists can be a difficult feat, so § 61.14 provides a Florida Family Law Judge with a number of factors that that the Court may consider in deciding to reduce or terminate alimony as follows:
a) the extent the recipient spouse and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple – Do they refer to each other as husband and wife; partners; or my other half?
b) the period of time they have resided together in a permanent residence;
c) the extent to which they pool their assets – Do they share a bank account, share responsibility for paying bills, share groceries, or have joint credit accounts? Have they purchased a house together or signed a lease jointly?; and
d) whether they perform valuable services for each other – this can include the situation where one of them is self-employed and the other works for that person’s company and is not paid or where one doesn’t work but stays home to babysit the other’s children.
While the above list is not all-inclusive, it does provide some guidance as to what can constitute a supporting relationship under Florida Family Law Statutes.
If you are preparing for a mediation where modifying or terminating alimony is an issue, it is the experience of our Florida Supreme Court Certified Mediators that you should be prepared to show the other party that you have enough evidence to prove that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred or that your former spouse is in a supportive relationship. When you can prove your position with evidence, you are more likely to walk out or mediation with a Mediated Settlement Agreement in place.