Everyone knows the horror story of someone who was ordered to pay what was considered unfair alimony. Florida is one of the only states in the nation that allows for permanent alimony. This means that in a divorce proceeding involving a long-term marriage, a judge can award alimony that only expires upon death or the spouse payee’s remarriage.
What about cases where alimony is awarded and then the payee gets a job or goes on to receive a raise in salary? Can alimony be modified to reflect the increase in the payee’s means? While it may seem obvious that a raise in income should modify or negate the need for alimony, the reality is rarely cut-and-dried.
In 2009, Ruth Kamenski received a pay raise due to a promotion that more than doubled her salary and brought her level of income close to her ex-husband’s. Edward Kamenski petitioned for a decrease in the alimony that he was paying his ex-wife because of her new raise. One of the most interesting elements of this case is that it clarified some of the specific criteria for modifying alimony based on a payee’s change in income.
A simple raise in pay is not enough in Florida to modify an alimony agreement. The raise has to have been unanticipated during the original divorce proceedings. If alimony is awarded with the anticipation that payees have the capacity to improve their earnings, alimony may not be modified when this occurs. However, as in the case of the Kamenskis, even though Ms. Kamenski was still employed in the same general field, she had accomplished a new level of licensing and a job title that had not been anticipated in the original divorce proceedings. This alone allowed Mr. Kamenski to apply for a change in alimony.
There are many reasons why alimony might be awarded. The details of every alimony agreement are unique to the couple involved. If you believe you may have encountered a situation that warrants an alimony modification, a qualified lawyer can help you evaluate your options.