If you are a person that pays alimony, you are probably very familiar with the term “supportive relationship.” In essence, a supportive relationship occurs when a party who receives alimony is in a relationship with another person, and they conduct themselves in a manner that evidences a permanent supportive relationship for an extended amount of time, such that they pool together their assets and income or otherwise demonstrate financial interdependence upon one another. As a general rule, if a payor of alimony can prove that the recipient is in a supportive relationship, this will be considered in reducing an award of alimony.
In the recent case of King v. King, a case from the Second District Court of Appeal, a former husband brought a claim against his ex-wife, trying to reduce his alimony obligation based on the alleged existence of a supportive relationship. He was able to prove that she exhibited the requirements of a supportive relationship, as the boyfriend contributed $1,000 per month to the household expenses, and they had been living together for an extended period of time.
However, even though he showed financial interdependence between the two of them, since their cohabitation began prior to the entry of the final judgment of dissolution of marriage and award of alimony, the appellate court concluded that the former husband’s alimony award could not be reduced. The court stated that the statutory language in Florida Statute section 61.14(1)(b) indicates that a relationship is only “supportive” if it has existed “since the granting of a divorce and the award of alimony.”
As a result, because the former wife was already cohabitating with her boyfriend at the time of the divorce and alimony award, the other circumstances demonstrating their financial interdependence would not qualify to reduce the former husband’s obligation because it had not happened “since” that time.
As a practicing family law attorney in the Carrollwood area, we see cases like this quite frequently, illustrating how each individual court ruling is incredibly fact-intensive. For instance, if the former wife had remarried the boyfriend after the divorce, or alternatively if the boyfriend had moved in with the former wife the day after the final judgment dissolving the marriage, the former husband could probably have gotten the alimony reduced.
It may appear to many that the result of this case would encourage parties to start living with their paramour prior to a final divorce if they want to prevent a latter reduction of alimony based on a supportive relationship. While I do not believe that this was what the legislature intended in creating this statute, it seems to be the only logical outcome if the courts apply facts to the statute as it is currently written.