Modifying or Terminating Alimony Based Upon Cohabitation or a Financially Supportive Relationship in Florida
Most forms of alimony terminate upon the remarriage of the recipient, such as bridge-the-gap, durational, and permanent alimony. See 61.16(5), (7) & (8), Fla. Stat. (2016). However, there is no incentive for a former spouse receiving alimony to get remarried. The alimony recipient will cohabitate with their significant other and forego a marital relationship, thus avoiding the automatic termination of the alimony award.
In 2005, the Florida legislature codified existing common law to provide that a financially supportive relationship could form the basis to reduce or terminate an award of alimony. Section 61.14(1)(b)1 states, in pertinent part, that “[t]he court may reduce or terminate an award of alimony upon specific written findings by the court that since the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee (recipient) and a person with whom the obligee resides.”
The obligor, person paying alimony, has the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists. The Court is instructed to consider several factors to determine whether a supportive relationship exists including, but not limited to, the following:
- 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 last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as “my husband” or “my wife,” or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship.
- The period of time that the obligee has resided with the other person in a permanent place of abode.
- The extent to which the obligee and the other person have pooled their assets or income or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence.
- The extent to which the obligee or the other person has supported the other, in whole or in part.
- The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other.
- The extent to which the obligee or the other person has performed valuable services for the other’s company or employer.
- Whether the obligee and the other person have worked together to create or enhance anything of value.
- Whether the obligee and the other person have jointly contributed to the purchase of any real or personal property.
- Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an express agreement regarding property sharing or support.
- Evidence in support of a claim that the obligee and the other person have an implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.
- Whether the obligee and the other person have provided support to the children of one another, regardle ss of any legal duty to do so.
For a modification based on a support relationship, it is essential to prove as many of the statutory factors set forth above to increase your chances of success. Proving these factors will ultimately depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. Typically, it will involve testimony of various witnesses and financial records to show a pattern of behavior.
If you are paying alimony and your former spouse is cohabitating with a significant other, you may have a claim to modify or terminate your alimony. It is highly recommended that you seek the advice from a marital and family law attorney with experience in these types of matters before taking any legal action so that you can make an informed decision as how best to proceed.
Jonathan Schiller is a Florida Bar board certified specialist in Marital and Family Law and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. He concentrates 100% of his practice in the area of marital and family law primarily in Broward County, Palm Beach County, and Miami-Dade County.