Pursuant to Florida statutes, alimony may be awarded when one spouse has a need for financial assistance and the other spouse has the ability to pay. If a court awards alimony, then the obligor may later seek to modify or terminate the alimony obligation if there is a substantial change in circumstances or if the obligee has entered into a supportive relationship. Pursuant to Florida statutes, the court has discretion to reduce or terminate an award of alimony if the court finds that since the granting of the divorce decree, a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a person with whom the obligee resides (“cohabitant”).
The burden is on the obligor to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a supportive relationship exists. In a recent case, Gregory v. Gregory, 39 Fla. Weekly D1A (Fla. 5th DCA 2014), the 5th DCA held that once the court finds that a supportive relationship exists, the burden of proof shifts to the obligee to prove that he or she has a continued need for the financial support. In that case, the Husband sought to reduce or terminate his alimony obligation based on the wife’s supportive relationship. Ultimately, the court held that the wife was living in a supportive relationship and she failed to prove that she had the continued need for alimony.
Some of the facts on which the court relied included former wife’s inheritance of $370,000 from her mother, wife’s ability to make substantial gifts to her son and cohabitant, and the cohabitant’s valuable non-economical assistance to the wife. Further, evidence showed that the wife supported her cohabitant to a certain extent. In response to this, the 5th DCA stated “the former husband is under no obligation to help support the former wife’s cohabitant.” While these factors were particular to this case, they are not exclusive and each individual case is unique.
For more information, see Gregory v. Gregory, 39 Fla. Weekly D1A (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). Liridona Sinani is an Attorney with Martin Law Firm, P.L. who practices Family Law and Civil Litigation. She is admitted to practice law in the State of Florida and the Federal Court for the Middle District of Florida. She primarily practices in Lee County and Collier County Florida in Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Naples.