Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Alimony
Can a court reduce a Florida alimony obligation when the alimony recipient voluntarily reduces his or her expenses? This question was asked in the case Regan v. Regan, 217 So.3d 91 (Fla. 4th DCA 2017) where the court considered an appeal of a final judgment that granted the former husband's request to modify alimony.
The former wife was receiving $9,000 per month per the parties' marital settlement agreement and final judgment of divorce. After the divorce, the former wife voluntarily reduced her expenses by moving to a different state and selling the marital home. The trial court reduced the alimony payments to $7,800 which covered the former wife's monthly expenses plus taxes.
The former husband appealed, arguing the trial court erroneously failed to impute minimum wage to the former wife and that it should have required her to withdraw from her retirement accounts and investments to reduce his alimony obligation further. The former wife also appealed, stating it was error for the trial court to reduce her alimony based on her voluntary reduction of her expenses.
In upholding the trial court's decision, the appellate court held:
1. It was within the court's discretion to reduce the alimony based on the former wife's voluntary changes, and this discretion was not abused;
2. The trial court did not abuse its discretion in failing to impute minimum wage to the former wife because she had not worked the entire marriage and the parties' marital settlement agreement did not contemplate that the former wife would have to work in arriving at the alimony amount; and
3. The settlement agreement did not contemplate the former wife using income from her retirement or investment accounts for her support. Further, the former husband could not prove the former wife could access her funds without penalty - the former wife's expert testified her withdrawals at that point would invade the principal in the accounts, which is something Florida law prohibits.
A marital settlement agreement can lay out terms for alimony that make modification difficult or impossible. Having the right wording in your contract can help avoid costly future litigation. Schedule a consultation with a Miami divorce lawyer to find out how.