I was ordered to pay alimony to my former spouse and they are living with someone else who is supporting them - can I ask the court's permission to terminate my alimony obligation?

The answer to this question is sometimes "yes" and sometimes "no". It really depends upon the type of alimony that was awarded and if it is a modifiable type of alimony. Most modifiable types of alimony are capable of being modified based on remarriage of the receiving party, death of either party or a substantial change in circumstance of either party with respect to need and ability to pay. Generally speaking, periodic alimony, permanent alimony and rehabilitative alimony are modifiable types of alimony (so long as there is no provision for non-modifiability). "Lump sum" alimony is not generally modifiable as it is considered to be a property right as opposed to support that is enforceable by way of contempt 1

In the past, if the spouse receiving alimony moved in with someone else who was contributing to their financial well being, such was not considered to be a basis for terminating the alimony obligation. Now all of that has changed thanks to the legislature's amendment to Fla. Stat. 61.14. The new statute now allows the Court to reduce or terminate an alimony award "upon specific written findings by the court that since the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony a supportive relationship has existed between the obligee and a person with whom the obligee resides".

In determining whether an existing award of alimony should be reduced or terminated because of an alleged supportive relationship, "the court shall elicit the nature and extent of the relationship in question". The Court is to give consideration, without limitation, to circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following, in determining the relationship of the person receiving alimony to another person (the term "obligee" in the statute is used to describe the person who is receiving alimony):

  1. The extent to which the obligee and the other person have held themselves out as a married couple by engaging in conduct such as using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other in terms such as "my husband" or "my wife," or otherwise conducting themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship.

The existence of a conjugal relationship, though it may be relevant to the nature and extent of the relationship, is not necessary for the application of the provisions of the statute.

Because of the newness of the statute there are only a few cases interpreting it as follows:

1 By definition, an award of lump sum alimony vests in the recipient at the time of the final decree, and is not subject to defeasance or modification. In Zimmer v. Zimmer, 328 So.2d 525, (Fla. 4th DCA 1976), the Court stated that "We affirm the order appealed from as to the refusal to modify the provision for payment of lump sum alimony since that character of alimony is not subject to modification pursuant to s 61.14 F.S.1973. Gordon v. Gordon, Fla.App.3d, 1967, 204 So.2d 734; Horne v. Horne, Fla.App.2d, 1974, 289 So.2d 39."