An award of alimony or spousal support in a Florida divorce does not mean that the award will be valid under any and all circumstances or that it is not modifiable. Support obligations are, unless waived by agreement, always modifiable in Florida. As a Jacksonville divorce lawyer, clients have contacted me regarding their support obligation because their income has changed, the other party has remarried, or a variety of other things have arisen since the divorce. In Florida, if there is a substantial change in circumstance, alimony may be reduced or terminated based on that change (Florida Statute 61.14). If the receiving party is living in a new relationship setting and that relationship could be deemed supportive in nature, based on the Florida law, then the court may terminate or reduce alimony in accordance with that new support.
In order to reduce or terminate an alimony obligation, the State puts the burden of proof on the obligated paying party. The court may reduce or terminate, upon making findings that since the divorce was finalized, granting the alimony, receiving spouse has lived with another individual in what could be considered a supportive relationship. In determining whether such relationship is, in fact, supportive, the paying party is responsible for proving, beyond a preponderance of the evidence that the following relationship and supportive-like behaviors exist:
1. Whether the party receiving support is with another person and they are presenting their relationships to others a married couple by engaging in activities similar to that of a marriage or supportive relationship(e.g. referring to one another as “husband” and “wife”; taking the last name of the other; this is “our” family, etc.).
2. That the receiving party has lived with the other person in what could be argued to be a permanent living facility (e.g. a house) and the length of time in which they have been doing so.
3. That the party and the other person have joined income and assets and in essence, commingled their finances.
4. Whether the receiving party or the other person have supported each other and to what extent that support has existed (e.g. the other person is paying for all household expenses and has been doing so since moving into together.)
5. Whether they have worked together in creating something of value for themselves or their companies. This may mean that they have pulled their money together to invest in the others’ company, created their own business together, etc.
6. If the other party and the other person have jointly purchased property.
7. That the other party and his/her significant other have an actual written agreement or an implied agreement regarding their property and the sharing of their finances.
8. The support of the others’ child (e.g. paying for the kid’s clothes, helping with child support payments, etc.).
The party responsible for paying support can show any of the above factors, or anything else that may go to show that a supportive relationship exists for the other party in order to have a reduction or termination of spousal support. However, while certain aspects exist in these findings that could be construed as a “common law marriage,” the practice of such is still not recognized in Florida. Therefore, the argument may be made that though they are not married, the other party is in a relationship that has the makings of a marriage, thus decreasing or terminating the need for spousal support to continue.