Have you ever questioned if the alimony payments you pay or receive can be terminated or modified based on a supportive relationship?
Alimony can be modified if your ex-spouse, the “obligee” is cohabitating or engaged in a supportive relationship with another. However, determining what constitutes a supportive relationship can be murky waters and you should speak to an attorney first before jumping in and testing the waters.
Pursuant to Florida Statutes, Section 61.14, Florida law does recognize that relationships exist that provide economic support equivalent to marriage and that alimony terminable on remarriage may be reduced or terminated on the establishment of equivalent equitable circumstances. A court is authorized to reduce or terminate an award of alimony if there is proof by a preponderance of evidence that the obligee is in a supportive relationship with another person with whom the obligee resides.
What’s the catch, you may be wondering? The burden to prove that a supportive relationship exists is on the person seeking to terminate or modify alimony. As a result of this burden, extensive discovery may be necessary to establish that the parties are engaged in a supportive relationship as is defined by Florida Statutes.
What is a supportive relationship? Pursuant to Florida law a “supportive relationship” between an alimony obligee and a person with whom the obligee resides, permitting the court to reduce or terminate alimony, is a relationship that takes the financial place in whole or in part of a marriage and decreases the need of the obligee.
In determining whether an award of alimony should be reduced or terminated because of an alleged supportive relationship and the court may consider the following factors:
- the extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same name, using the same mailing address, referring to each other as my husband or my wife, or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent support relationship.
- the period of time they have resided together in a permanent place of abode;
- the extent to which they have pooled assets, or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence;
- the extent to which either has supported the other;
- the extent to which they have performed valuable services for each other;
- the extent to which either has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer;
- whether they have worked together to create or enhance anything of value;
- whether they jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property;
- evidence that they have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support;
- evidence of an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support; and
- whether they have provided support to the children of one another regardless of any legal duty to do so.
As you can see, while not “a de facto” marriage, a supportive relationship takes the financial place of remarriage and necessarily decreases the need for alimony by the obligee. Thus, once a trial court makes a finding that a supportive relationship exists, it must by necessity either reduce or terminate alimony because the obligee’s need has changed. If a payor spouse establishes that the recipient spouse is being totally supported by another, a supportive relationship likely exists such that modification or termination of alimony may be warranted.
This is a highly complex and fact-intensive area of law and it recommended that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation. The attorneys at The Campbell Law Group PA are experienced in representing both parties in these types of modification proceedings.