Posted by Nydia Streets of Streets Law in Florida Alimony
When a party who is ordered to pay alimony retires, he or she may be able to seek a modification or termination of the alimony obligation. This issue was discussed in the case Holder v. Lopez, 1D18-1870 (Fla. 1st DCA June 7, 2019) in which the trial court denied the former husband’s petition to terminate alimony after he retired at age 65.
The former husband was a truck driver before he retired. He was ordered to pay permanent Florida alimony to his former wife and their marital settlement agreement nor the final judgment indicated what would happen to the alimony once he retired. The trial court reduced the alimony but did not terminate it, and the former husband appeal.
The appellate court reversed on two grounds. First, the trial court erred in imputing non-existing housing expenses to the former wife. The evidence showed the former wife was living with her adult children on a rotating basis to spend time with her grandchildren. Her monthly living expenses were being met with her social security and medicare disability benefits plus a share of the former husband’s military retirement payments. The former wife had racked up credit card debt largely in part to her buying craft supplies for activities with her grandchildren. The appellate court noted the trial court did not consider the former wife’s ability to earn income as a caretaker since she was doing so for free for family members even though she claimed to be totally disabled.
Next, although the trial court found the former husband was unable to continue as a truck driver, it imputed part-time minimum wages to him. The appellate court disagreed, holding, “Former Husband's decision to retire was reasonable. He was sixty-five years old, which he testified was five years older than the age at which most truckers retire. He had a variety of physical limitations and ailments related to age and the physical labor associated with thirty-six years of military service overlapping with twenty-one years working as a truck driver, for a total of nearly fifty years of work. The evidence of his physical limitations included Former Husband's testimony as well as documentation from a physician that Former Husband suffered from fibromyalgia, back pain, and fatigue, and was unable to work. These factors demonstrate reasonableness and a substantial change of circumstances warranting modification or termination of alimony.”
The appellate court further held, “It was error for the trial court to proceed to an imputed-income analysis, because the retirement was reasonable as supported by the undisputed evidence. A reasonable retirement under these circumstances does not constitute voluntary under-employment.” If you are on either side of a petition to modify or terminate alimony in Florida, contact a Miami divorce lawyer for help. A consultation may be your first and best step to understanding your rights and remedies.