In the legal sense, to modify a judgment means to make a legal change in the final outcome of the decree signed by a judge. In the case of alimony, modification can only take place if the right to modification of alimony was not waived. To waive the right to modification as part of dissolution of marriage decree, it must be agreed upon by both parties as part of a marital settlement agreement written, signed, and notarized before the final adjudication. As there are a number of types of alimony there are a wide variety of issues surrounding its modification.
In Florida, unless modification to alimony has been waived in the final decree for dissolution of marriage, either party can return to court to make changes to the amount and sometimes the duration of the stipulated alimony. The type of alimony awarded will usually determine what kind of modification is possible. For example, permanent alimony cannot be changed to durational alimony but length of time of durational alimony can be changed. Or, the amount of Lump sum alimony cannot be changed but the amount of permanent alimony can. Bridge-the Gap alimony cannot be modified at all. Please see Alimony or Spousal Support to learn more about the six types of alimony. Each case needing modification will have its own set of conditions so it is wise to seek the counsel and help of an experienced Family Law attorney. Attorney Gisondo has the experience and expertise you need.
Since no one can know the future it is usually very unwise to forgo alimony all together in you final dissolution of marriage as in Florida there is no way to reinstate alimony once the final document has been signed. There is an award of alimony called nominal alimony which can be as little as one dollar a month which at least allows for future modification if the terms of involuntary, unexpected, and substantial changes in circumstances are met.
The key words for modifications are “substantial, material, unanticipated change in circumstances”. In other words the changes in you circumstances must not have been evident during the litigation of your divorce and they must be permanent as far as you know, of a sizable change, material, and unanticipated. Some of these changes could include, but are not limited to:
An interesting note is, in Florida, there is a Cohabitation Law, which, upon rigorous proof to the court of the supportive relationship, can mean the discontinuation of permanent alimony for the payee.
All this being said, the actual process for obtaining a modification of alimony is much the same process as the original divorce litigation. Please see Divorce or Dissolution of Marriage for an in depth overview of the divorce process. In brief, the petitioner who is desiring the change must file, in the county where the divorce took place, a petition called Supplemental Petition for Modification, followed by personal service of this petition to the former spouse who then has 20 days to respond. In depth financial disclosures will be required of both parties as well as extensive proof of substantial cause for modification. Mediation is required by Florida law and if that is not successful a court trial before a judge will take place. Adjudication is binding on both parties and if there are financial changes they will be retroactive to when the Supplemental Petition for Modification was filed.
All in all, if you truly need a modification of your alimony award, whether payee or payer, you need an outstanding Family Law attorney well versed in all aspects of alimony modification. If you live in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange, or Hillsborough county Attorney Gisondo, who practices Family Law in West Palm Beach, is an attorney you can count on to answer your question, make your concerns his own, and be with you personally to the conclusion of your case. Call his office at (561) 530-4568 for a free, initial, in office and in person consultation with Attorney Gisondo.