In this case, the parties were divorced on June 14, 2007 and an amended divorce judgment was entered two weeks later on June 30, 2007. The amended divorce order required the Former Husband to pay $ 8,000 in monthly alimony to the Former Wife. This appeal arises from the Former Husband’s unsuccessful attempt to modify his alimony obligation (which coincided with the Former Wife’s motion to increase that same alimony payment).
The Former Husband’s appeal rested on four (4) grounds: (1.) the denial of his application for a downward modification of alimony based upon his reduced income; (2.) the failure to reduce his child support obligation when his oldest child reached the age of majority; (3.) his claim that the there were constitutional deficiencies in the contemporaneous order citing him for contempt based upon his non-payment of alimony; and (4.) his claim that the Trial Court erred by awarding the Former Wife attorney’s fees.
The First District affirmed the denial of the Former Husband’s claim for a downward modification of his alimony obligation on the grounds that he was voluntarily underemployed at the time of the petition. In order to obtain a modification of an alimony (or child support) award, the payor must establish that there has been a substantial, material and unanticipated change in circumstances which is both involuntary and permanent in nature. In this case, the Trial Court found (and the appellate court affirmed) that the Former Husband’s reduction in pay (while real) was the product of his voluntary decision to remain underemployed despite the ability to earn more. Based upon this voluntary underemployment, the Former Husband did not satisfy the elements necessary to reduce his alimony obligation.
The modification of an alimony award based upon a reduction in income can be a complicated and difficult claim, particularly where the payor spouse is self-employed or works in a non-traditional field. In these cases, it is important to have an experienced and trusted divorce lawyer who has the knowledge to navigate the post divorce process effectively. The Ferraro Law Group has been litigating alimony and divorce cases in Stuart, Florida and throughout the Treasure Coast for more than thirty years.