In divorce cases, Florida courts often award alimony to a financially-dependent spouse, particularly when the couple has been married for many years. When a spouse receiving alimony remarries, starts living with someone else or experiences an improved financial situation, the paying spouse will most likely want to reduce or eliminate spousal support payments.
This article explains how a supported spouse's remarriage or cohabitation 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. There are several types of alimony awards, which can serve a variety of purposes. Sometimes, courts grant spousal support to "bridge the gap" until a spouse is self-supporting.
Other times, the purpose of alimony is to provide a spouse with financial support for a limited or permanent amount of time. Alimony may also serve to reimburse one spouse's contributions during the marriage. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.08 (1).)
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 several factors when deciding whether or not to grant alimony, including:
In Florida, periodic alimony automatically ends when the supported spouse remarries. (Fla. Stat. Ann. § 61.08 (7).) The paying spouse may stop making support payments immediately upon the date of the marriage, without having to return to court for an additional court order.
However, the supported spouse's remarriage does not change the paying spouse's obligation to make a lump-sum alimony payment or property transfer—these obligations generally survive a remarriage.
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." But, this "ceremony" did not automatically terminate alimony since it wasn't a legal marriage. (Bridges v. Bridges, 842 So. 2d 983.) In cases like these, the paying spouse will need to file a motion in court and ask a judge 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 amount.
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 anymore. 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 does not agree to end alimony, you'll need to file a written request asking the court to terminate or modify alimony. At your hearing, you should prepare to show evidence of the change in either you or your ex-spouse's financial circumstances.
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 not related by blood or marriage.
Because cohabitation creates a financially supportive relationship that can substitute for a marital relationship, courts often reduce or terminate alimony when the supported spouse is cohabiting with another person.
Florida courts consider many factors when deciding if the supported spouse is cohabiting with another person, including:
If you're paying alimony, and you believe your ex-spouse is cohabiting with someone, you should consider filing a motion to terminate or modify alimony in your local circuit court. Once you set a hearing date, it will be up to you to prove the supportive relationship to the court.
If you have additional questions about ending or changing alimony in Florida after remarriage or cohabitation, contact a Florida family law attorney for help.