Modification of Alimony in Florida

A Modification of Alimony case was recently decided by the Florida Court of Appeal in a case captioned Judy v. Judy. In this case the Former Husband sought modification of his alimony obligation. The amount of Former Wife’s alimony was previously agreed to in a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Former Husband and Former Wife were married for 26 years. The Former Husband was the primary wage earner, and the Former Wife stayed home to raise the parties’ two children. Prior to the Final Hearing, the parties entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement. The Marital Settlement Agreement stated that the Former Husband would pay 8 years of durational alimony to the Former Wife. The Marital Settlement Agreement also stated that the Former Husband’s involuntary loss of employment would be considered to be a substantial change of circumstances for purposes of modification of alimony. By the time that the Final Hearing took place, the Former Husband was involuntarily unemployed. The trial court enforced the Marital Settlement Agreement, however, it permitted the Former Husband to institute an action for modification of alimony. Former Husband brought an action for modification of alimony. However, Former Husband dismissed this claim when he found employment. Five years later, Former Husband again became unemployed and brought this action for modification. Although Former Husband regained employment, he pursued his claim for modification of alimony based upon the fact that his current income was less than it was at the time of the Final Hearing and because the Former Wife had not obtained employment subsequent to the entry of the Final Judgment.

A General Magistrate granted Former Husband’s Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony based upon imputation of minimum wage income to the Former Wife. The General Magistrate found that the Former Wife had made no attempt to obtain employment after the divorce, and found that it was therefore appropriate to impute income to her. The Trial Court adopted the General Magistrate’s recommendations.

The Florida Court of Appeal reversed the Trial Court’ ruling and held that it erred in imputing income to the Former Wife. The Florida Court of Appeal pointed out that in imputing income to a payor, the trial court is required to ascertain the payee’s occupational qualifications, their work history and the current job market in the area where the parties live. However, since the terms of the parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement: (i) did not require the Former Wife to obtain employment, (ii) stated that the terms of the alimony obligation were non-modifiable, and (iii) did not indicate that the parties intended to impute income to the Former Wife if she did not become employed, the Florida Court of Appeal refused to impute income to the Former Wife and denied the Former Husband’s Supplemental Petition for Modification of Alimony.

To speak with a modification of alimony attorney, contact Matthew Lane & Associates, P.A. at (561) 328-1111.

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