When Florida spouses divorce, they can agree to terms such as property division, child custody and alimony. If they can’t agree, a Florida court will issue decisions on these terms as part of a divorce decree. Alimony is typically addressed at the time of the divorce because, with few exceptions, after the divorce is final, it’s too late for the court to award alimony.
Asking for Alimony
Generally, courts can only award alimony to a spouse if that spouse asks for it during the divorce proceedings. Requests for alimony can be included in the spouse’s original petition for divorce or requested later in other pleadings. However, judges typically cannot award alimony unless a spouse asks for it.
Returning to Court
Florida allows spouses to return to court after the divorce decree is final to modify an existing alimony award. For example, a recipient spouse could ask the court for an alimony increase if her financial situation has significantly changed. A paying spouse could also ask the court for a change, such as a decrease if he becomes disabled and unable to work. However, spouses cannot typically go back to the court to ask for alimony after the divorce is final if alimony was not awarded in the original decree.
If one spouse hides assets or income during the divorce, a Florida court might permit the other spouse to reopen the divorce proceedings because of this fraud. Florida law doesn’t want a spouse to be able to benefit by committing fraud during a court proceeding. If the divorce is reopened, the innocent spouse can ask for alimony in the reopened case based on the new discovery of the previously hidden assets.
Since Florida courts usually lose the ability to award alimony after the divorce is finalized, the divorce court can award “nominal” alimony in order to keep the issue open for later review. For example, the court can award nominal alimony if alimony would otherwise be appropriate but the paying spouse is unable to pay because he does not have a job at the time of the divorce. By awarding a small amount of alimony, the court preserves its ability to award substantial alimony in the future should the receiving spouse wish to ask the court for more. However, the court can only award nominal alimony if there is a likelihood that a change of circumstances in the future would warrant an alimony award.