Florida courts often award a financially dependent spouse alimony during a divorce, particularly when the spouses have been married for many years. When a spouse receiving alimony (called the “supported spouse”) gets remarried, begins living with someone else, or otherwise improves his or her financial situation, however, the paying spouse will most likely want to reduce or eliminate alimony payments.
This article explains how the remarriage or cohabitation of a supported spouse affects alimony under Florida law. If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony in Florida after reading this article, you should consult a local family law attorney.
During a divorce proceeding, the court can grant alimony to either spouse. An alimony award can serve a number of purposes. Sometimes, courts grant alimony to “bridge the gap” until a spouse is self-supporting. Other times, alimony is intended to provide a spouse with financial support for a limited or permanent amount of time. Alimony may also serve to pay a spouse back for his or her contributions during the marriage.
The most common type of alimony is periodic alimony, which consists of payments made according to a schedule (usually monthly) from the paying spouse to the supported spouse.
Courts will consider a number of factors when deciding whether or not to grant alimony, including:
If you would like to know more about alimony in Florida, see Understanding and Calculating Alimony in Florida.
In Florida, periodic alimony automatically ends when the supported spouse remarries. If a supported spouse gets remarried, the paying spouse may end alimony payments immediately, without having to return to court for an additional court order. If alimony is to be paid in a lump sum or by a transfer of property, however, the supported spouse’s remarriage doesn’t change the paying spouse’s obligation to make the lump-sum payment or property transfer.
Only a legal marriage will automatically terminate alimony obligations. For instance, in one Florida case, a former wife receiving alimony had moved in with another man, held a public ceremony where they exchanged rings and vows, and presented themselves publicly as “partners in life,” yet this did not automatically terminate alimony since it wasn’t a legal marriage. In cases like these, the paying spouse will need to return to court to terminate or reduce alimony.
If you are paying alimony and either you or your ex-spouse has a significant change in financial circumstances, you may want to terminate or modify alimony. First, you should try to see if your ex-spouse will agree to change the alimony agreement. For example, if your ex-spouse is living with someone who is providing financial support, your ex may agree that you shouldn't have to pay alimony any more. In this case, you should both sign an agreement either modifying or ending alimony, and file it with the circuit court clerk’s office.
If your ex-spouse will not agree to end alimony, you will need to ask the court to terminate or modify alimony. To do so, you’ll need to file a motion to terminate or modify alimony in your local circuit court clerk’s office. At your hearing, you should be prepared to show evidence of the change in either your financial circumstances or the financial circumstances of your supported ex-spouse.
Florida courts have the power to modify or terminate alimony when the supported spouse begins cohabiting with another person. Florida law defines cohabitation as any living arrangement in which the supported spouse is living with, and receiving financial assistance from, another person that is not related by blood or marriage. Because cohabitation creates a financially supportive relationship that can substitute for the marital relationship, courts often reduce or terminate alimony when the supported spouse is cohabiting with another person.
Florida courts consider a number of factors when deciding if the supported spouse is cohabiting with another person, including:
If you are paying alimony to your ex-spouse and believe he or she is cohabiting with someone, you should consider filing a motion to terminate or modify alimony in your local circuit court.
If you have additional questions about remarriage and alimony, contact a Florida family law attorney for help.