Life is full of many twists and turns, many of which can have financial consequences. When you experience a turn in your life that reduces your income, and you are under an existing court order to pay your ex-spouse alimony, that downturn in your income may result in an alimony payment that is too large. In some circumstances, you may be entitled to obtain a court order that lowers your alimony payments (or even ends them altogether). There is, however, a specific way that you must go about seeking this modification, so it is definitely worthwhile to have knowledgeable South Florida counsel on your side.
R.B. was a man in such a position of change. In 2015, he was close to retirement. 10 years earlier, he and his wife, B.B., had divorced. In the couple’s 2005 marital settlement agreement, the husband agreed to pay the wife $5,500 per month in permanent alimony. The agreement said nothing about either’s spouse’s future retirement.
R.B. sought a reduction of his alimony. The trial court ruled in favor of B.B. The court of appeal, however, concluded that the trial court had made an “error of law.” The law allows courts to consider “a reasonable retirement as part of the total circumstances in determining if sufficient changed circumstances exist to warrant a modification of alimony.” A failure by a couple’s original divorce judgment or marital settlement agreement to address the parties’ future retirements does not change a trial judge’s ability to consider retirement in a request for reduction of alimony.
The law also, however, says that a court cannot grant a request for reduction of alimony if the change that the requesting spouse relied upon is something that was “contemplated and considered” by the judge (or the parties) when the original judgment (or agreement) was created.
So, the key to this case was basically this: does your retirement a decade after you and your ex-spouse established a marital settlement agreement count as an event that you contemplated and considered in the creation of that agreement? The appeals court’s ruling in this case was that it did not. The court specifically distinguished between events that were anticipated by/foreseeable to the parties and events that were contemplated and considered by the parties. Obviously, a spouse who is divorcing when he is in his 50s may anticipate retirement in the future, but anticipation is not the correct legal analysis. Florida law focuses “not on what the parties should have anticipated but on what was actually considered in the property settlement agreement” a decade or more before the requesting spouse sought reduction of his alimony obligation.
In order for the trial judge not to consider the husband’s request, the wife had to offer proof that the spouses actually considered the husband’s retirement in making the settlement agreement. Because there was no such evidence in R.B.’s case, he was entitled to pursue his request for reduction of alimony.
Whether you are contesting an issue of alimony, property division or some other divorce issue, Miami family law attorney Sara Saba is here to help. Attorney Saba has been providing useful advice and effective advocacy for her clients for more than 13 years. Our team is dedicated solely to meeting your family law needs. Contact us online or by calling (305) 450-8009 to schedule your consultation. Hablamos Español.
More blog posts:
Ensuring that You Get the Benefit of the Agreement for Which You Bargained in Your Florida Prenuptial Agreement, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, July 1, 2018
The Importance of Strong Legal Counsel in Your Florida Divorce Case, Especially When There’s a Possible Language Issue, Miami Divorce Lawyer Blog, June 22, 2018