Few issues in some divorces are more important to the parties than that of alimony. There are many guidelines used by the Florida courts to determine whether alimony is appropriate and if so, the level at which the obligor will be paying the obligee.
Often, divorce cases resolve by settlement of the relevant issues, including alimony, so that the judge need not decide the issue. Other times, the judge, upon a party’s request, will make an order when settlement is elusive on an issue. Because financial status can change, a party may want to make sure that the issue of alimony is modifiable down the road, even if not needed at the time of the divorce.
Florida’s modification statute requires existing alimony order
Florida law found at section 61.14 states that when parties have an agreement providing for the payment of alimony, and the circumstances of either party later change, either party may ask that the alimony amount be increased or decreased.
However, what if the parties did not have a decree providing for alimony at all? As noted by 61.14, the modification statute only applies when there is an existing alimony obligation. Thus, the court may not impose alimony in a post-judgment scenario where the divorce was final without the inclusion of any alimony.
Case law points to strategy of nominal alimony at time of divorce
The District Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District, in the case of Lightcap v. Lightcap, clarified that it may be effective and wise for a party who does not currently need support, to request nominal alimony. This is particularly so if there is a thought that the party may need support later. Even if not financially needy at the time of divorce, by including a nominal alimony obligation in the decree, the spouse can later be able to seek a modification or increase later, should circumstances change.
Nominal alimony is as simple as ordering one dollar per year. While a modification may never be necessary or legally possible under the change in circumstances rules, nominal alimony preserves the right to request a medication. This is a right that would otherwise be unavailable to a party if there was no such divorce decree term.