Jurisdiction and Alimony Modification in Florida Divorce Cases
At the time of entry of a final judgment all issues are usually decided and finalized, unless the case is appealed. However, under certain circumstances a court can reserve jurisdiction to address a portion of the case at a later date. Reservation of jurisdiction is always a critical issue when a court implements its power to decide an issue later, but none is more consequential than when it is applied to alimony cases.
In a final judgment ordering permanent periodic alimony or rehabilitative alimony the court does not have to retain jurisdiction to modify an award of alimony at any time period that support is required but cannot after the support obligation has ended. Kelsey v. Kelsey, 636 So. 2d 77 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994); see also Cohen v.Cohen, 637 So. 2d 20 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994); Mouton v. Mouton, 590 So. 2d 40 (Fla. 2d DCA 1991). In the Ispass, case the court found that it is not necessary for a trial court to specifically reserve jurisdiction to modify the amount and duration of alimony because the statute grants the court the power to hear the case. Ispass v. Ispass, 243 So. 3d 453 (Fla. 5th DCA 2018). The court further clarified that when the alimony obligation terminates then the court loses jurisdiction to modify the amount or duration of the alimony.
If No Alimony is Ordered Can the Court Modify the Judgment and Order Alimony?
Courts have ruled that if the there is no alimony awarded of any type in the final judgment, the court has no jurisdiction to later award alimony unless it has specifically reserved jurisdiction.
Richards v. Richards, 569 So. 2d 935 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990). Therefore, it is critical if you wish for the court to later reconsider or modify its alimony award that the court reserve jurisdiction to address future changes or an alimony award that can later be modified. However, the case law is clear that a judge is not required to reserve jurisdiction to hear alimony issues and decided the issue at a later date is discretionary. Shaw v. Shaw, 334 So. 2d 13 (Fla. 1976)
Can a Court Award Nominal Alimony and Retain Jurisdiction to Later Modify Alimony?
In some circumstances the court may elect to award nominal alimony. Nominal alimony is usually a very insignificant amount such as a dollar per month. The trial court will often due this to preserve its ability to modify and award permanent alimony when it appears that the need and ability for alimony is likely change in the foreseeable future. Courts have held by awarding nominal alimony, the court retains jurisdiction to modify an alimony award should there be a substantial change of circumstances in the future which would warrant it. Davis v. Davis, 691 So. 2d 626 (Fla. 5th DCA 1997); Perkovich v. Humphrey-Perkovich, 2 So. 3d 348 (Fla. 2d DCA 2008). This is important because while at the time of trial the alimony obligee may have a lower need or the alimony obligor may have recently experienced a life event that has significantly impacted their ability to pay. Our Florida divorce attorneys understand that while the current set of facts may not establish a sizeable alimony award that it is important to ask the court for nominal alimony to protect your ability to later seek a modification.
Our Florida Attorneys Are Here to Help You Pursue Your Alimony Claim.
If you are facing an alimony case understanding your right and the complex issues raised by alimony claims is imperative. Our Florida lawyers are ready to help and only a phone call away. Call our Florida divorce lawyers or visit one of our offices in Panama City Beach, Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach, or Orlando to schedule your consultation.